The many robocalls you're getting on your phone aren't just annoying: increasingly, they're programmed for scams.
In September alone, 4.4 billion robocalls were made to U.S. phone customers, and about 40 percent of those were scams, according to YouMail, a voicemail and call-blocking company for cellphones.
"It's been a gradual change," YouMail CEO Alex Quilici said. "Every year we've been seeing an increase in robocalls."
In three local area codes, people received an average of 17 or more robocalls in the month of September. People in the 267 area code averaged 18.9 calls.
Pennsylvania phone customers got more robocalls in September than those in New Jersey or Delaware. Remarkably, some parts of the country were even harder-hit.
Not all robocalls are scams, though. Your child's school, for example, could be calling to say there's a snow day, or a legitimate company might be trying to get your business.
But when the calls are coming from numbers you don't recognize, it could be a sign of scammers trying to take advantage of you. There are things you can do to protect yourself:
1. The Federal Trade Commission suggests downloading a robocall-blocking app.
2. If you think you're getting a robocall, don't answer; answering the phone tells the caller that your line is active and will only encourage more calls.
3. See what built-in features your phone has to block calls.
4. Ask your phone carrier what services they offer to block robocalls on mobile phones and landlines.