Robocallers took holiday vacation, will resurge, expert says

Unwanted messages dropped 8 percent, but YouMail says warns ramp-up is coming

ORLANDO, Fla. – The 2018 holiday season saw a slight decline in robocalls, dropping an estimated 8 percent in December, according to YouMail Inc., a free robocall-blocking system for cellphones.

While the numbers were lower at 4.8 billion, down from October’s peak at 5.11 billion,  YouMail CEO Alex Quilici said he isn’t convinced the data suggests anything more than a pause heading into 2019.

“Unfortunately, this is most likely due to robocallers taking some time off for the holidays and not likely to be the start of a trend," Quilici said. ”It was a brief respite. The robocallers rested. We had our phones ring less."

However, Central Florida area codes still received a high volume of robocalls.

YouMail data shows area code 407 received 39.5 million robocalls last month, while area codes 321 and 352 reported 17 million and 18 million calls, respectively.

Quilici said the top five scam calls shifted for the first time since September. While health insurance scams, interest rate scams and student loan scams continued to have the highest volume, they all declined significantly in December. Additionally, an increase in warranty-related schemes pushed search listings scams out of the top 5 robocalls.

This week, a new message, warning consumers their Social Security numbers had been hacked, started popping up on Central Florida cellphones.

The male caller, who has an English accent, suggests the consumer is about to lose their account: "We are canceling your Social Security number. For further information and to avoid any disciplinary action, please kindly call us back.”

Quilici said he’s convinced the calls will ramp back up this month.

“What you see a lot of times is a small number of calls for a given scam. If it works, the calls increase. If it really works there’s an explosion," he said.

According to Federal Trade Commission consumer specialist Lisa Lake, someone's Social Security number is never suspended or canceled.

The endgame, according to Lake, is access to the victim's personal information.

YouMail has 10 million customers. The app, which blocks unwanted robocalls, is free. For more information on the scam calls, including recordings and wording, go to youmail.com.

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