Robocalls continue to spam and irritate receivers


Ben Helwig

Photo courtesy of Pexels

“I’ve been applying for internships like crazy. I get a call with a 402-area code and I’m hoping it’s a job, but it ends up being a recorded message and it’s really frustrating, because I can’t not answer it,” said Samantha Edens.

Edens, a junior English major at UNO, is not the only victim of these phantom phone messages.

It’s an all-too common occurrence. You feel the phone buzz in your pocket. You eagerly pull out the phone to answer the call, but as soon as you hit “answer” you’re met with something else. A robotic voice rattles off a message about credit cards or owed debt.

You hang up, frustrated by yet another robocall.

While robocalls have existed since the 1980s, recently these calls have spiked to an alarming rate. In fact, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), nearly 50% of calls in 2019, will be spam. The discouraging fact is that this just happens to be the “norm” now with phone calls.

Randy Niemann, a former Sprint marketing executive, calls the robocalls something people just live with at this point.

“It’s basically junk mail or email spam,” Niemann said. “It’s stuff people don’t want, but it happens and we basically just throw it away.”

As trite as robocalls may seem, they do exist to accomplish a goal. These calls typically contain a prerecorded message pertaining to credit debt or IRS collections. If all goes according to plan, these calls bait recipients into giving over credit card or bank account information.

In the past, these calls were easier to detect when they were fake or not, based off of phone number alone. However, technology has contributed to the evolution of the calls. Tech is available to make these automated messages seem like the call is coming from a certain destination, even the recipient’s home state.

Take students at UNO for example. During a recent informal survey conducted at UNO during the week of Nov. 24, 2019, 15 out of 15 students had received a robocall at some point in the last month, with 14 out of 15 students having received a phone call within the last week.

“It’s a real problem honestly,” said UNO sophomore journalism student Ana Bellinghausen. “I’m at the point where I know better, but some people may not know the dangers and they need to be informed.”

This FCC is currently working on limiting and preventing these types of calls and hopes to limit robocalls in the near future. Preventative measures were taking previously back in the 1990s to limit calls, but because new technologies can mimic area codes, it’s a little harder to get in front of.

“Overall, it’s an issue that will eventually be taken care of, not entirely, but can be held in check,” Niemann said. “It’s just kind of surprising how they all popped up quickly and all of a sudden recently.”

As for on campus, students continue to be aware and assertive when answering the robocalls.

“Sometimes I’ll just shout into the phone even though no one can hear me after I pick up,” Edens said. “It doesn’t do anything, but it helps me feel better.”