Testing and contact tracing on a massive scale will be critical as the country cautiously continues to reopen its doors. While testing is largely a matter of addressing shortages and ramping up production so supply exceeds demand, contact tracing offers its own unique challenges — challenges already felt by legitimate businesses that rely on phone call outreach and exacerbated by the way people deal with robocalls.
In this article we cover:
- The negative impact robocalling has on contact tracing
- How the same dynamic carriers over to business calls
- The ways in which scammers are adapting, and how you can match them step for step
Contact tracing is the process in which public health staff put on their detective hats to trace everyone an infected patient has come in contact with during the timeframe he or she may have been infectious. Staff then attempt to warn exposed individuals of their potential exposure as rapidly and sensitively as possible.
Make no mistake, contact tracing is a specialized skill. As the CDC puts it, “To be done effectively, it requires people with the training, supervision, and access to social and medical support for patients and contacts.”
The rub is contact tracers have encountered difficulties simply getting people on the phone.
It turns out that Americans have become so desensitized by robocalls, we answer only 52 percent of our calls.
76% of calls go unanswered when they come from an unidentified or unfamiliar number. The exhausting amount of robocalls received in the United States — more than 16.5 billion calls this year through April alone — have conditioned us to hear our favorite ringtones as nothing more than white noise, even though doing so may come at the peril of our own health.
It’s Not Just a Healthcare Problem
Call screening leads not only to missed healthcare calls, but also to a tremendous loss in business activity. As recently as 2015, 92 percent of all customer interactions happened over the phone. When three out of four calls from unfamiliar numbers go unanswered (that 76% we mentioned above), that’s a huge chunk of pipeline not allowing your business the chance to put its best foot forward. As empathy continues to grow as a critical differentiator for companies attempting to stand out among a sea of competition, lost phone interactions can be significantly detrimental.
In 2017, small businesses in the United States lost $9.5 billion in productivity due to robocalls. Imagine all the time businesses spend engaging in multiple callbacks, leaving additional messages, and seeking out alternate means of contact for recipients who don’t pick up due to fear of spammers. When U.S. callers are receiving 4 million robocalls per hour, 38% of which are classified as “spam” (April 2020), it’s easy to see how the cost of lost time and lost opportunity quickly stack up and spiral out of control.
Scammers Continue to Get Smarter
Though the number of robocalls has dropped since the pandemic started, the scammers who are still at it have come up with more diabolical ways to take advantage of their victims. Robocalls have evolved to target people’s financial instability, teasing refunds owed due to COVID-19 circumstances or government stimulus checks. The most common pretenses under which robocalls are placed are from Social Security Administration imposters (39%) and IRS imposters (38%). COVID-19 robocalls most commonly bait people with talk of treatments (22%), financial relief (18%), free testing (18%), and warnings of virus exposure (18%), and a hazardous desensitization of individuals who may still receive those legitimate exposure warnings but may no longer trust them.
Listen to an actual “free coronavirus test” spam robocall. It’s fairly convincing, right?
This is how good people get taken advantage of in desperate times.
Small business owners are equally desperate and susceptible to robocall fraud. Considering all the haziness around the Paycheck Protection Program and the livelihoods at stake, one might forgive a struggling business owner of falling prey to empty promises of government funding, sanitation supplies, and restored Google listings.
Listen to this actual robocall offering to “ensure your Google listing is displaying correctly.”
As of May 21, the FTC has received more than 52,000 COVID-19-related complaints, costing consumers just short of $38.6 million in fraud loss. Over the same period, 1,508 Do Not Call reports were filed (71.4% of all DNC reports) for robocalls.
It’s a jungle out there.
Just because you use the phone for business purposes, doesn’t make you any less immune to robocall scammers. Start with a free YouMail account for yourself, then add business-class protection for your business and your team so you can keep pace with the ne’er-do-wells and join the fight against robocalls. View your protection options now.