IRVINE, Calif., March 13, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Public concerns about the global coronavirus pandemic have inspired a wave of dubious robocalls that seem to exploit consumer fears amid ongoing uncertainty about the COVID-19 crisis, according to YouMail Inc., creator of the YouMail Robocall Index™.
YouMail researchers have uncovered robocalls referring to the coronavirus to promote an Amazon work-from-home scam, an HVAC cleaning scam, as well as two highly questionable marketing robocalls promoting coronavirus health services and supplements; a series of robocalls pushing political surveys; and many other robocalls involving legitimate efforts by school districts and other agencies to issue relevant public service announcements.
"The current robocalls we've identified are likely the first in what will likely be a quickly expanding set of robocalls leveraging the current COVID-19 pandemic., said Alex Quilici, CEO of YouMail. "As with all unknown or unexpected robocalls, it's buyer beware and we recommend consumers ignore them."
The Robocall Scams In Detail
One scam robocall involves an offer for services to sanitize "ducts and air filters to protect your loved ones from the coronavirus." This offer comes despite the fact that the virus is transmitted by droplets from an infected person, not by bacteria in air filters, and that many of these calls are made without consent. Here is the transcription and audio file of this robocall content:
"We recommend sanitizing your ducts and air filters to protect your loved ones from the coronavirus. For only $159 our highly trained technicians will do a full air duct cleaning and sanitation to make sure the air you breathe is free of bacteria. So, don't hesitate. Press 0 and have your duct system cleaned and sanitized now. Press 9 to be removed from this list."
Another type of robocall that preys on fears about making public contact involves a scam to earn $400 per day by working from home for Amazon.com. Here is the transcription and audio file of this robocall content:
"This is a call regarding the Amazon associate program. Amazon recognizes the health concerns concerning the coronavirus. Amazon is offering you an opportunity to work from home as an associate member and make up to $400 a day. No experience of any kind is necessary. Training will be provided. To learn more and see if you qualify, please call our automated line at 279-333-8313. Please press 9 now if you wish to be placed on the Do Not Call list."
Other robocalls focus on health-related services, like insurance or supplements. One robocaller with very questionable behavior offers low-cost health care plans using the same callback number employed by a massive national health insurance robocall campaign. Here is the transcription and audio file of this robocall content:
"This is Safe Health Central. To opt out of receiving calls, please call our toll free listed at the end of this message. The coronavirus is spreading. Keep your family safe and secure and speak to one of our health agents about getting you covered with the lowest cost health plan in the country. Now is the time to act. Don't be late. Press 2 to speak with one of our licensed agents. Or if you're busy, press 9 and receive a call back in 24 to 48 hours. Or if you would like to opt out, you may call our toll free number 844-989-1702 or press 1 now. Thank you."
Still another robocall pushes a questionable health supplement product, ostensibly to boost the body's immune system. Here is the transcription and audio file of this robocall content:
"Hello this is Anna with Farm Origins and I really encourage you to listen to this whole message. We want to help our customers defend against the coronavirus, so we are shipping a free immunity booster. Please call us back at 888-964-5327 to confirm your order. If phone lines are jammed due to high demand, we can also process your order over live track found on FarmOrigins.com. We are trying to supply as many as possible, but these are first come first serve. Thank you. Have a great day."
In addition, a whole series of robocalls are now promoting conservative political surveys, including questions about President Trump, Senator Bernie Sanders, recent stock market volatility and more. Here is just one example of a transcription and audio file of this robocall content:
"My fellow Americans, this is a Republican House Committee survey. The coronavirus has just caused the Dow to drop 1000 this week. Some analysts say this is just the beginning. Are you prepared for this crash? Press 1 to be connected now."
The Legitimate Robocallers
On the bright side, YouMail has identified numerous legitimate robocalls by public officials and school districts offering a range of updates about local infections, school closures, sporting events and other cancellations. Here is the transcription and audio file of one of these valid robocalls:
"Good evening this is superintendent Austin Beutner with an update on our efforts to help prevent the spread of coronavirus in our schools. While there are 27 identified cases of the virus in Los Angeles County, none have any known connection to our schools. We're implementing effective immediately a series of steps based on recommendations from public health officials to help stop the spread of the virus. All of our student and staff gatherings are canceled, as well as off-campus visits by students and staff to public places where crowds may gather. Student events and competitions may continue without any spectators. We recognize this will cause difficulty and disappointment. Students and educators work hard to prepare for the competitions and events. Families and community members are an essential part of schools and we encourage their engagement and active participation, but at this time these steps are necessary. We appreciate your patience and understanding. Please feel free to call our hotline at 213-443-1300 with any questions or check our website at LAUSD.net for updated information."
Consumers should be aware that many robocalls today may involve schemes to make money or sow disinformation about the spread of the virus. For this reason, YouMail cautions people not to pick up any calls from unfamiliar phone numbers and instead let them roll into voicemail for further scrutiny.
About YouMail, Inc.
YouMail, Inc. provides imaginative, intelligent, cloud-based telecommunication services. These include its free app-based service to block robocalls, and its premium call management services for people who use their mobile phones for business. YouMail's services free users from limitations of their mobile phone or carrier – protecting against unwanted calls, helping them handle high volumes of mobile calls, unifying virtual numbers with their cell number, and providing personalized answering experiences for their callers. YouMail has stopped over a billion robocalls, has given hundreds of millions of callers the experience they deserve, and has delighted millions of users. The YouMail Robocall Index™, since its launch in in September 2015, has emerged as the nation's definitive source on robocalling data for telecom carriers, smartphone and app companies, and public policymakers. Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., YouMail, Inc. was founded in 2007 and is privately funded.
Rohan Notaney for YouMail
SOURCE YouMail Inc.