According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) robocalls have increased significantly during the last year.

Although the type of robocalls varies, the FTC says when you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it's safe to bet that you're a robocall victim.

One robocall blocking company, YouMail, estimates between 60 and 75 billion robocalls will have been placed in 2019, up from 47 billion last year and 30 billion the year before.

A recent report published during January curated and analyzed robocall complaint and call frequency data from FTC and YouMail and said North Dakotans were estimated to have been robocalled 75,986,600 times or 8.2 robocalls per month in 2019.

Despite these large numbers, North Dakotans made less than 7,100 complaints to the FTC about robocalls throughout the year. In fact, only Alaska reported fewer complaints to the FTC, causing a national site, LetsTalk.com, to rate North Dakota second in "least bothered by robocalls."

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A 2019 report from Letstalk.com says eastern coastal states and Western states topped the “most bothered” by robocalls rankings, while states in the Midwest and Central US were “less bothered”. Map courtesy of LetsTalk.com.
A 2019 report from Letstalk.com says eastern coastal states and Western states topped the “most bothered” by robocalls rankings, while states in the Midwest and Central US were “less bothered”. Map courtesy of LetsTalk.com.

But North Dakotans' lack of annoyance doesn't mean they're harmless. Scams increasingly account for the majority of robocalls—45% of them in 2019, compared to just 17.6% in 2016.

The FTC says most "robocalls" are likely scams that are illegal. However, if the company has a person's written permission to call and try to sell a product, then it's not illegal, but a consumer can withdraw permission at any time. The FTC lists several other types of robocalls as legal, including the following types:

  • Political calls
  • Calls from health care providers
  • Debt collection calls
  • Message from charities
  • Messages that are purely informational, school closings, winter weather alerts

Free cruise? Not

During early January, the FTC announced charges against the operators of a “free cruise” telemarketing scheme that made millions of illegal robocalls using phone numbers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry, a free registry by the FTC to stop unwanted sales calls.

If you suspect you are being targeted by unwanted robocall, the FTC recommends installing a call blocking app, silencing calls from unknown numbers or sending these calls straight to voicemail.

What to do to protect yourself?

Report unwanted calls at donotcall.gov. Report the number that appears on your caller ID — even if you think it might be faked. Many illegal robocalls use a technique called "spoofing" to deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity.

If you feel like you've been a victim of a spoofing scam, you can file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.