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Unwanted calls hit pre-pandemic levels, Do Not Call registry says

Imposters and robocalls make up the largest number of unwanted call complaints over the past year, which has seen a resurgence.

The number of complaints regarding unwanted phone calls has increased to five million for the fiscal year ending in September 2021, according to a Tuesday report from the Federal Trade Commission. That's a 25% increase from the year before, but is closer to normal than an aberration.

Imposters were, by far, the most common complaint.

According to the National Do Not Call Registry Data Book, the registry added nearly three million phone numbers for a total of 244.3 million. But the number of unwanted calls increased at a significantly larger rate, from 4 million to 5 million.

For fiscal year 2018, there were 5.77 million total complaints followed by 5.4 million in fiscal year 2019. But in fiscal year 2020, it dropped noticeably to just under 4 million. 

Robocall-blocking service YouMail reported in May 2020 that many call centers closed or had fewer workers in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic.

There were 1,525 complaints per 100,000 DNC-registered phone numbers in 2021. Sixty-eight percent of complaints were about robocalls, the FTC said. 

Nearly 600,000 complaints were about imposter calls -- people posing as legitimate businesses or government entities. The second-most complained about calls were regarding warranty and protection plans (450,691) followed by calls about reducing debt (173.679), medical and prescriptions calls came in after that (135,750), then computer and tech support (76,471) and energy solar and utilities related calls (57.231).

The largest number of complaints came from California, Texas, Florida, New York and Ohio. But, per capita, the states with the largest number of complaints per 100,000 people were Maryland, Delaware, Arizona, Colorado and Virginia. 

North Dakota came in last for per capita complaints.