Have you been missing something amid the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders? No, not human contact. Not even toilet paper.
Industry experts say robocalls are way down — scam calls as well as nagging from your credit-card company to pay your bill. The coronavirus pandemic has inflicted millions of job losses, and scammers have not been immune.
YouMail, which offers a robocall-blocking service, says 2.9 billion robocalls were placed in April in the U.S., down from 4.1 billion in March and 4.8 billion in February. That’s a daily average of 97 million calls in April, down from 132 million in March and 166 million in April.
The main reason: many global call centers have closed or are operating with fewer workers, said YouMail CEO Alex Quilici. While it may be odd to think of scams being run out of call centers rather than a dark, creepy basement or a garage, that’s often the case, particularly in countries such as India and the Philippines, experts said.
After a lockdown order went into effect in India in late March, “we saw the volume of calls basically half the next day,” Quilici said.
That means scammers will probably be back in force once the call centers come back online. Stepped-up enforcement from industry groups and the U.S. government could nibble around the edges of those call volumes when the scammers are back, however. In recent months, federal agencies have focused on going after the small telecom providers that were allowing calls from COVID-19 scammers, citing the urgency of the pandemic.
And free blocking tools that were already in place on many people’s phones help consumers dodge unwanted calls, so it’s not clear how many have noticed the lower numbers of scam and telemarketing calls in the past couple months.
“What we do hear from consumers is call blocking tools are effective in reducing a significant number of robocalls but some unwanted calls are going to slip through,” said Maureen Mahoney, a policy analyst with Consumer Reports.
Complaints about unwanted calls to the Federal Trade Commission have been steadily trending down since late 2018, and dropped by more than half in March from the year before, to 240,000. The Federal Communications Commission gets many fewer complaints overall but says those also fell 50% in March, to 10,000, and 60% in April, to 7,500.
None of which is to say that nuisance calls and phone scams and texts have disappeared.
“While reports of robocalls are way down overall, we’re now hearing about callers invoking the COVID-19 pandemic to pretend to be from the government, or making illegal medical or health care pitches,” an FTC blog post declared in mid-April.
And Mahoney predicts that calls will pick up again, and it won’t just be scammers back in action. With so many people out of work and behind on their bills, debt collectors will be relentlessly badgering them to pay soon enough, she said.
7 Gun Stocks to Buy During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Socially conscious investors may want to stop reading. But the fact is that gun stocks were some of the best-performing stocks at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. And they continue their positive momentum.
Some of that may be historical. Firearms sales tend to increase during an election year. But of course, this has not started out as a normal election year.
In March, the nation was gripped by pictures of long lines outside gun stores in several U.S. states. The website Ammo.com reported that bullet sales increased by 222% in the period from February 23 through March 15 as opposed to the first three weeks in February.
And according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), there was a 73% year-over-year increase in background checks in February.
“The world has never seen anything like this and people want to make sure they’re prepared for whatever lies ahead, whether that be food shortages, government shutdown, or worse,” a spokesperson for Ammo.com said in an emailed statement. “When everything around you is uncertain, having a supply of ammunition can make our customers feel safer.”
Given the likelihood of increased firearms sales, we’ve created this presentation that highlights seven gun stocks that you should consider for your portfolio.
View the “7 Gun Stocks to Buy During the Coronavirus Pandemic”.
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