Does ignoring those annoying robocalls help reduce them?

We all get pesky robocalls and each one presents a problem. If we do not recognize the number, should we answer? Ignore? Block the number?

Apparently, the answer is that none of these actions make much of a difference.

To better understand how these unwanted callers operate, we monitored every phone call received to over 66,000 phone lines in our telephone security lab, the Robocall Observatory at North Carolina State University. We received 1.48 million unsolicited phone calls over the course of the study. Some of these calls we answered, while others we let ring. Contrary to popular wisdom, we found that answering calls makes no difference in the number of robocalls received by a phone number. The weekly volume of robocalls remained constant throughout the study.

Blocking the number does not help much because most of those numbers are not from the real caller.

Using these techniques, we learned that more than 80% of calls from an average robocalling campaign use fake or short-lived phone numbers to place their unwanted calls. Using these phone numbers, perpetrators deceive their victims and make it much more difficult to identify and prosecute unlawful robocallers.

I never answer calls from an unknown number that does not leave a message. But I once got a call that my caller ID identified as from a friend, giving both his name and his actual number. I of course picked it up but it turned out to be another robocall. It must be that they had just happened to select a sender number that was in my address book.

This is a nuisance that will not go away.


  1. Marja Erwin says

    Unfortunately, a lot of bureaucracies rely on pain calls. So if you can’t get to the pain fast enough, you get screwed. If you can, and pick it up, and still get a busy signal, screwed. If you explain that the pain gives you earaches and migraines, screwed… As long as they rely on pains, then others will piggyback on the pain system.

  2. billseymour says

    “Email. Send me email. I like email. I hate phones. I kill phones.” — Laura Lemay

    I never answer my phone at all even when I’m sitting right next to it. If the caller leaves a message, and it’s somebody I want to talk to, then either I’ll answer (if I’m there) or call back later.

    In normal times, I get two or three spam calls a day when I’m home. With the elections coming soon, and being home almost all the time because of the virus, I’m getting something like ten a day. It’s really annoying.

    The only land-line phone I have is a Western Electric dial-up instrument in a black bakelite case which, as expected, is still going strong. “They don’t make ’em like that anymore.”

  3. says

    Charly (#4) --

    Probably because European laws are stricter and have teeth. Many European countries require “opt in” or levy fines for violating “do not call” requests.

    Robocallers are finally being fined into oblivion in the UK

    Robocallers in Britain, beware. The UK’s privacy watchdog, known as the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), has issued its biggest-ever fine for automated nuisance calls. A company called Keurboom Communications was slapped with a £400,000 ($517,000) penalty yesterday, after making nearly 100 million robocalls that triggered more than 1,000 complaints. Keurboom is closing shop as a result; it was placed in voluntary liquidation after the fine.

    One thing that irks me about buying from companies is when they assume that buying from them (or even contacting them) equates to “permission to send spam”. It doesn’t. I’ve done chargebacks on credit card purchases just to make a point.

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