Mar 12, 2019

48 billion robocalls annoyed Americans last year

HBO late-night host John Oliver called out the FCC on his show last week for the robocall problem plaguing American cellphones, drawing nationwide attention to the problem that almost every American is dealing with. 

Data: Robocall Index, American Community Survey; Map: Harry Stevens/Axios

Why it matters: It's one of the most complained-about issues in America. The FCC gets roughly 200,000 complaints each year about robocalls. Nearly 48 billion robocalls were made in 2018, according to YouMail Robocall Index.

Driving the news: While the problem impacts almost every cellphone user in America, data from Robocall Index shows that area codes from certain parts of the country are much more likely to be used for robocalls. 

How it works: Robocalls from certain areas in the U.S. don't necessarily reflect where the originator of the call is coming from. Often scammers use a very popular technique called "neighbor spoofing," in which they copy the area codes of local jurisdictions to make it more likely that people will pick up the phone.

  • Washington, D.C., has a high population of robocalls to its population because scammers often pretend to be calling on behalf of government agencies like the IRS or ICE.
  • Robocall area codes also tend to reflect highly-populated areas. Some regions, like Atlanta, and parts of the Southeast region of the U.S. and southern border states also have high percentages of robocalls mimicking those area codes.
  • This could be, according to a telecom source who works very closely on the robocall issue, because robocallers tend to target vulnerable populations, like older people, immigrants and minorities.

The big picture: The FCC has prioritized the problem and has introduced new standard to tackle robocalls last month. Most of the major wireless carriers have committed to implementing standards that verify if a call is real or if it comes from a computer.

Go deeper: New efforts could reduce robocalls over the next few years

Go deeper

Clyburn: Sanders' "socialist" label will be "extra burden" in House races

Clyburn with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday that Sen. Bernie Sanders' identification as a democratic socialist may be an "extra burden" in down-ballot House races if he were to win the Democratic nomination.

Why it matters: Clyburn's comments echo fears from many establishment Democrats, who worry the House majority they won in 2018 by taking moderate seats carried by President Trump could be at risk with Sanders at the top of the ticket.

O'Brien rejects intelligence report of Russia effort to re-elect Trump

National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien. Photo: Chris Usher/CBS via Getty Images

White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien repeatedly rejected on ABC's "This Week" an assessment from a congressional briefing led by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election to help President Trump get re-elected.

Why it matters: The report put the Trump administration under fresh scrutiny in regard to steps it has been taking to combat the kind of interference that the U.S. encountered in 2016.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 34 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Italy becomes site of largest coronavirus outbreak outside of Asia

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus has spread to more nations as South Korea and Italy step up emergency measures in their countries amid rising case numbers on Sunday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed at least 2,462 people and infected almost 79,000 others, mostly in mainland China. South Korea increased the infectious disease alert to red, the highest possible, as its case numbers jumped to 602 and the death toll to five. Italy's government announced emergency measures as it confirmed a spike from three to 132 cases in matter of days, making it the largest outbreak outside of Asia.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health