At YouMail, we publish something called the YouMail Robocall Index. Among other things, it shows our estimate of how many robocalls are made in the US every month – whether they good or bad, wanted or unwanted, legal or illegal. In the past few years that estimate has been as high as 5.7 billion calls in a month when robocalls were going completely crazy. And as low as 2.8 billion during the depth of the pandemic, when call centers were mostly closed or operating at very low rates.

However, if you’re trying to really understand the impact of out of control robocalls, it’s easy to get a headache thinking about billions of calls, especially when there are well over 250 million adults who can get those calls.

So we’ve been thinking about other ways to understand that impact. And we think the best way is to look at the problem is this: what is the probability that, if your phone is ringing, it’s a robocaller waiting for you to pick up?

To answer this question, we looked at the calls received by our base of YouMail users over the past few months.

And, drum roll please, the answer is….roughly 20-25% of all calls are robocalls.

That sounds like a lot because it is. Said more simply, roughly 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 phone calls people get in the US is likely to be a robocall. Our of all the billions and billions and billions of phone calls, it’s 1 in 4. Or maybe 1 in 5.

That’s a little crazy, isn’t it? No wonder people are downloading apps like YouMail, or not bothering to answer their phone any more.

But we took it one step further.

Prior research has shown that roughly half of all calls that come in are from people in your address book, like Mom, Dad, your significant other, friends, work colleagues, and other people you know well. Those are the people who call you enough you have their phone number right in your contact list, so when they call, you know who they are!

Knowing this, it’s just some simple math that lets us conclude that the probability is 40-50% that a call coming in that’s not in your phone’s address book is a robocaller. You know, those numbers you’re not sure about? That is, it’s roughly flipping a coin each time your phone is ringing: heads it’s a robocaller, tails it’s someone who actually might matter.

Sadly, this turns answering a phone call from a fun experience of talking with someone who matters to a stressful experience trying to guess who that person calling actually is.

We think that’s the best way to measure the impact of robocalls. And to see that impact in terms of what’s going to happen when you answer the phone really drives home that we all have a ways to go before people will feel comfortable answering the phone again.

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