Mass robocalls and the efforts to stop them become more intricate

When a cellphone rings in Fort Myers, there is a high chance it is a recorded message from a debt collector or a home repair scam. Those are the top two robocalls plaguing Southwest Florida.

For the first time, we are finding out how many robocalls are hitting Fort Myers. There was nearly 14 million last month, which comes out to one every five seconds.

With those numbers, it should come as no surprise that for many who own a phone, robocalls have become a daily nuisance.

“Everybody gets them today and it’s annoying,” said Tom Gross, a resident who lives in Fort Myers.

According to robocall blocking company, “Youmail,” over five billion calls went out nationally in January. For Fort Myers, it was nearly 14 million. Per person, it estimates 20 robocalls per month.

Some do not even bother answering anymore, which experts said is the best strategy to deter future contact.

“I usually just hit the hang up button,” said Megan Schorle, a Fort Myers resident, “so it doesn’t even go all the way through.”

But for business owners who have to answer the robocalls, each one adds an unnecessary expense to their company.

“They’re literally wasting time and money, so it’s costly to me,” Eric Nanz said.

Robocalls contact people by the thousands. With such a large group of people, a small percentage will become a victim — often financially — to the scam. One of the most lucrative returns for robocall scams is on tax day, according to experts.

MORE: Robocalls are a nuisance and they’re on the rise, but there’s something you can do

The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates interstate communications over several mediums, projects nearly half of all calls a person will receive this year will be spam.

The FCC is working harder to curb the problem with authorization methods and call tracing. Some carriers have built alerts. Individuals can also block the phony numbers themselves or can enlist the help of a call-blocking app.

Shaun Book, a cyber expert who owns Shaun Book, said it is a problem that is becoming harder to detect.

“You want to make sure you’re downloading verified apps to your phone,” Book said. “That they have good user reviews. That you’re not accidentally installing ads to your phone on top of the damage – that would be adding salt to the wound.”

Reporter:Britni McDonald
Writer:Michael Mora
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