Consumer Warning: Tax Season is Also Peak Robocall Season

We analyzed over 15 million consumer complaints to the FTC and found that the weeks leading up to April 15th are a peak season for robocallers.

March and April Complaints Are 20% Higher than January

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) publishes both daily and monthly data on the number of complaints consumers submit about telemarketers allegedly violating Do Not Call rules. In each of the past three years, complaints increase during the March and April tax season.

Average Complaints by Month (2016-2018)

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Complaints Continue to Rise Until Tax Day

During the peak of the third week in April, the average daily complaints are 10% higher than the last week of March and more than 5 times the January daily average. Because April 15th sometimes falls on a weekend, tax day isn't always on the 15th. It was on the 18th in 2016 and 2017. In 2018, it was on the 17th. In 2019, April 15th falls on a Monday so it will be the tax deadline for most consumers.

Average Complaints by Week (2016-2018)

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What to Expect for 2019

Estimates for how 2019 will compare to previous years are mixed. The government shutdown prevents January 2019 data from being available to provide better estimates using FTC complaints. Transaction Network Services (TNS) and First Orion both estimate that nuisance and scam calls are continuing to increase and account for one third of all incoming calls. While multiple sources show an increase in scam calls, the FTC shows fewer complaints in 2018 than 2017 - an indication that consumers may be loosing faith in the government agency's ability to fight scammers. Instead, consumers may be turning to call screening services provided by companies such as Google, ATT, and T-Mobile.

Advice for Consumers

For this tax season, consumers should be alert when answering calls related to their tax returns because they are likely scams. The IRS has stated repeatedly that they will not call consumers to demand immediate payment for taxes. Further, they will not call without first sending a bill in the mail, they will not ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone, and they will not threaten with the police or lawsuits. The IRS urges consumers that if they suspect the call is a scam, hang up immediately without giving out any personal information and call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040. However, calling the IRS has proven difficult during the beginning of the year as the government shutdown has increased hold times and left many calls unanswered.

Solutions to the Problem

At the moment, call screening services and the FTC are the main avenues for consumers. One of the major problems is phone number spoofing: when one phone number shows up on Caller ID even though the call originated from another number. The FCC is making attempts to persuade phone companies to implement reliable call authentication that would prevent phone number spoofing in illegal cases. Remember though that spoofing is sometimes a good thing: consider a dentist's office that wants to display their main phone number when calling to confirm an appointment instead of the desk of a specific employee that made the call. The solutions being proposed are STIR (Secure Telephone Identity Revisited) and SHAKEN (Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs). The systems would allow consumers to know whether a phone number is authorized to make calls on behalf of the number shown on Caller ID. To work, the technology must be implemented by all phone carriers. The FCC has demanded that the phone industry adopt these systems no later than 2019. However, the FCC did not specify what type of action might be taken against phone companies that don't implement the systems, and the costs of implementing the new technologies could be passed on to consumers.

States Most at Risk

Many phone scammers originally targeted older people or those with poor English skills. Now, phone scammers go after just about everyone. As the IRS points out, people from all states have been scammed, but some states have many more complaints per person than others. Nevada is the highest with 2,579 complaints per 100,000 people.

Complaints Per 100,000 People

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States Ranked by Complaints Per 100,000 People

#1 Nevada
2,579
#2 Colorado
2,552
#3 District of Columbia
2,469
#4 Arizona
2,374
#5 Oregon
2,369
#6 New Jersey
2,333
#7 Connecticut
2,323
#8 Virginia
2,148
#9 Maryland
2,101
#10 Florida
2,037
#11 Michigan
1,982
#12 Illinois
1,976
#13 Delaware
1,955
#14 California
1,891
#15 Pennsylvania
1,867
#16 Nebraska
1,858
#17 Ohio
1,858
#18 Idaho
1,836
#19 New Hampshire
1,829
#20 Montana
1,774
#21 Utah
1,769
#22 Washington
1,768
#23 Rhode Island
1,764
#24 New York
1,756
#25 Massachusetts
1,736
#26 Minnesota
1,668
#27 Tennessee
1,660
#28 Georgia
1,655
#29 Alabama
1,640
#30 North Carolina
1,636
#31 Wyoming
1,621
#32 New Mexico
1,601
#33 Kansas
1,538
#34 Maine
1,499
#35 South Carolina
1,495
#36 Vermont
1,476
#37 Wisconsin
1,455
#38 Arkansas
1,427
#39 Texas
1,421
#40 West Virginia
1,421
#41 Hawaii
1,380
#42 Kentucky
1,300
#43 Oklahoma
1,293
#44 Iowa
1,279
#45 Louisiana
1,264
#46 Missouri
1,177
#47 South Dakota
1,095
#48 North Dakota
991
#49 Indiana
963
#50 Mississippi
935
#51 Alaska
549

Counties Most at Risk

The FTC also collects more detailed information about where consumers are located when filing a complaint. Complaints to the FTC roll in from both urban and rural areas. We looked at the nation's 100 most populated counties (with large cities in the county noted) and ranked them by the number of complaints per person. Some of the country's most populated areas file many more complaints per person than others. People in places like San Francisco and Last Vegas file more than 3 times the number of complaints per person as places like Boston and parts of NYC.

Complaints Per 100,000 People

Population Density




Top 100 Counties Ranked by Complaints Per 100,000 People

#1 Fairfax County (Centreville), VA
2,230
#2 San Francisco County (San Francisco), CA
2,048
#3 Clark County (Las Vegas), NV
2,045
#4 Wake County (Raleigh), NC
2,032
#5 Multnomah County (Portland), OR
1,973
#6 Pinellas County (St. Petersburg), FL
1,906
#7 Palm Beach County (West Palm Beach), FL
1,857
#8 Collin County (Plano), TX
1,843
#9 Maricopa County (Phoenix), AZ
1,834
#10 Travis County (Austin), TX
1,800
#11 DuPage County (Naperville), IL
1,795
#12 Bergen County (Hackensack), NJ
1,791
#13 Pima County (Tucson), AZ
1,746
#14 Montgomery County (Germantown), MD
1,694
#15 El Paso County (Colorado Springs), CO
1,626
#16 Denton County (Denton), TX
1,608
#17 New York County (New York City), NY
1,596
#18 Montgomery County (Norristown), PA
1,574
#19 Bucks County (Levittown), PA
1,564
#20 Oakland County (Troy), MI
1,551
#21 Cobb County (Marietta), GA
1,538
#22 Monmouth County (Long Branch), NJ
1,529
#23 San Diego County (San Diego), CA
1,522
#24 San Mateo County (Daly City), CA
1,510
#25 Ventura County (Oxnard), CA
1,497
#26 Orange County (Anaheim), CA
1,494
#27 Broward County (Fort Lauderdale), FL
1,477
#28 Suffolk County (Brentwood), NY
1,470
#29 King County (Seattle), WA
1,454
#30 Hennepin County (Minneapolis), MN
1,444
#31 Hillsborough County (Tampa), FL
1,421
#32 Fulton County (Atlanta), GA
1,421
#33 Monroe County (Rochester), NY
1,418
#34 Bernalillo County (Albuquerque), NM
1,418
#35 Orange County (Orlando), FL
1,403
#36 Santa Clara County (San Jose), CA
1,380
#37 Salt Lake County (Salt Lake City), UT
1,376
#38 Lake County (Waukegan), IL
1,359
#39 Alameda County (Oakland), CA
1,353
#40 New Haven County (New Haven), CT
1,351
#41 Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), PA
1,349
#42 Franklin County (Columbus), OH
1,347
#43 Macomb County (Warren), MI
1,333
#44 Tarrant County (Fort Worth), TX
1,328
#45 DeKalb County (Brookhaven), GA
1,320
#46 Fairfield County (Bridgeport), CT
1,317
#47 Davidson County (Nashville-Davidson), TN
1,305
#48 Snohomish County (Everett), WA
1,300
#49 Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), NC
1,289
#50 Hartford County (Hartford), CT
1,289
#51 Contra Costa County (Concord), CA
1,286
#52 Jefferson County (Louisville/Jefferson County), KY
1,285
#53 Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), OH
1,267
#54 Pierce County (Tacoma), WA
1,256
#55 Baltimore County (Dundalk), MD
1,238
#56 Gwinnett County (Peachtree Corners), GA
1,232
#57 Oklahoma County (Oklahoma City), OK
1,218
#58 Duval County (Jacksonville), FL
1,210
#59 Prince George's County (Bowie), MD
1,198
#60 Will County (Joliet), IL
1,193
#61 Norfolk County (Quincy), MA
1,187
#62 Cook County (Chicago), IL
1,174
#63 Middlesex County (Lowell), MA
1,160
#64 Sacramento County (Sacramento), CA
1,157
#65 Nassau County (Hempstead), NY
1,149
#66 Worcester County (Worcester), MA
1,139
#67 Hamilton County (Cincinnati), OH
1,138
#68 Middlesex County (New Brunswick), NJ
1,135
#69 Jefferson County (Birmingham), AL
1,114
#70 Bexar County (San Antonio), TX
1,086
#71 St. Louis County (Florissant), MO
1,086
#72 Westchester County (Yonkers), NY
1,077
#73 Fresno County (Fresno), CA
1,067
#74 Essex County (Lynn), MA
1,029
#75 Erie County (Buffalo), NY
1,023
#76 Dallas County (Dallas), TX
1,018
#77 Harris County (Houston), TX
1,006
#78 Shelby County (Memphis), TN
1,003
#79 Providence County (Providence), RI
1,000
#80 Wayne County (Detroit), MI
976
#81 Los Angeles County (Los Angeles), CA
972
#82 Hudson County (Jersey City), NJ
938
#83 Riverside County (Riverside), CA
937
#84 San Joaquin County (Stockton), CA
908
#85 Essex County (Newark), NJ
859
#86 Baltimore city (Baltimore), MD
858
#87 Philadelphia County (Philadelphia), PA
840
#88 Jackson County (Kansas City), MO
804
#89 Miami-Dade County (Miami), FL
803
#90 Milwaukee County (Milwaukee), WI
786
#91 Queens County (New York City), NY
776
#92 Honolulu County (Urban Honolulu), HI
733
#93 San Bernardino County (San Bernardino), CA
722
#94 Suffolk County (Boston), MA
655
#95 Kern County (Bakersfield), CA
645
#96 Kings County (New York City), NY
571
#97 Marion County (Indianapolis city), IN
567
#98 El Paso County (El Paso), TX
552
#99 Bronx County (New York City), NY
285
#100 Hidalgo County (McAllen), TX
268



States with Multiple Counties Ranked

Arizona

#9 Maricopa County (Phoenix), AZ
1,834
#13 Pima County (Tucson), AZ
1,746

California

#2 San Francisco County (San Francisco), CA
2,048
#23 San Diego County (San Diego), CA
1,522
#24 San Mateo County (Daly City), CA
1,510
#25 Ventura County (Oxnard), CA
1,497
#26 Orange County (Anaheim), CA
1,494
#36 Santa Clara County (San Jose), CA
1,380
#39 Alameda County (Oakland), CA
1,353
#51 Contra Costa County (Concord), CA
1,286
#64 Sacramento County (Sacramento), CA
1,157
#73 Fresno County (Fresno), CA
1,067
#81 Los Angeles County (Los Angeles), CA
972
#83 Riverside County (Riverside), CA
937
#84 San Joaquin County (Stockton), CA
908
#93 San Bernardino County (San Bernardino), CA
722
#95 Kern County (Bakersfield), CA
645

Connecticut

#40 New Haven County (New Haven), CT
1,351
#46 Fairfield County (Bridgeport), CT
1,317
#50 Hartford County (Hartford), CT
1,289

Florida

#6 Pinellas County (St. Petersburg), FL
1,906
#7 Palm Beach County (West Palm Beach), FL
1,857
#27 Broward County (Fort Lauderdale), FL
1,477
#31 Hillsborough County (Tampa), FL
1,421
#35 Orange County (Orlando), FL
1,403
#58 Duval County (Jacksonville), FL
1,210
#89 Miami-Dade County (Miami), FL
803

Georgia

#21 Cobb County (Marietta), GA
1,538
#32 Fulton County (Atlanta), GA
1,421
#45 DeKalb County (Brookhaven), GA
1,320
#56 Gwinnett County (Peachtree Corners), GA
1,232

Illinois

#11 DuPage County (Naperville), IL
1,795
#38 Lake County (Waukegan), IL
1,359
#60 Will County (Joliet), IL
1,193
#62 Cook County (Chicago), IL
1,174

Massachusetts

#61 Norfolk County (Quincy), MA
1,187
#63 Middlesex County (Lowell), MA
1,160
#66 Worcester County (Worcester), MA
1,139
#74 Essex County (Lynn), MA
1,029
#94 Suffolk County (Boston), MA
655

Maryland

#14 Montgomery County (Germantown), MD
1,694
#55 Baltimore County (Dundalk), MD
1,238
#59 Prince George's County (Bowie), MD
1,198
#86 Baltimore city (Baltimore), MD
858

Michigan

#20 Oakland County (Troy), MI
1,551
#43 Macomb County (Warren), MI
1,333
#80 Wayne County (Detroit), MI
976

Missouri

#71 St. Louis County (Florissant), MO
1,086
#88 Jackson County (Kansas City), MO
804

North Carolina

#4 Wake County (Raleigh), NC
2,032
#49 Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), NC
1,289

New Jersey

#12 Bergen County (Hackensack), NJ
1,791
#22 Monmouth County (Long Branch), NJ
1,529
#68 Middlesex County (New Brunswick), NJ
1,135
#82 Hudson County (Jersey City), NJ
938
#85 Essex County (Newark), NJ
859

New York

#17 New York County (New York City), NY
1,596
#28 Suffolk County (Brentwood), NY
1,470
#33 Monroe County (Rochester), NY
1,418
#65 Nassau County (Hempstead), NY
1,149
#72 Westchester County (Yonkers), NY
1,077
#75 Erie County (Buffalo), NY
1,023
#91 Queens County (New York City), NY
776
#96 Kings County (New York City), NY
571
#99 Bronx County (New York City), NY
285

Ohio

#42 Franklin County (Columbus), OH
1,347
#53 Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), OH
1,267
#67 Hamilton County (Cincinnati), OH
1,138

Pennsylvania

#18 Montgomery County (Norristown), PA
1,574
#19 Bucks County (Levittown), PA
1,564
#41 Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), PA
1,349
#87 Philadelphia County (Philadelphia), PA
840

Tennessee

#47 Davidson County (Nashville-Davidson), TN
1,305
#78 Shelby County (Memphis), TN
1,003

Texas

#8 Collin County (Plano), TX
1,843
#10 Travis County (Austin), TX
1,800
#16 Denton County (Denton), TX
1,608
#44 Tarrant County (Fort Worth), TX
1,328
#70 Bexar County (San Antonio), TX
1,086
#76 Dallas County (Dallas), TX
1,018
#77 Harris County (Houston), TX
1,006
#98 El Paso County (El Paso), TX
552
#100 Hidalgo County (McAllen), TX
268

Washington

#29 King County (Seattle), WA
1,454
#48 Snohomish County (Everett), WA
1,300
#54 Pierce County (Tacoma), WA
1,256