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Where all the robocalls are coming from

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

The Federal Communications Commission voted on a ruling Thursday that would combat robocalls that spoof legitimate, in-service numbers and provide a legal framework for phone carriers to carry out the action.

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 cell phone 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 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 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 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 because robocallers tend to target vulnerable populations, like older people, immigrants and minorities, according to a telecom source who works very closely on the robocall issue.