ELECTION 2020

Iowa No. 1 in the nation on Election Day - for robocalls

Jim Tyrrell, a senior director at Transaction Network Services, which analyzes robocalls in political campaigns. (2020 s
Jim Tyrrell, a senior director at Transaction Network Services, which analyzes robocalls in political campaigns. (2020 submitted photo)

Nearly 1.7 million Iowans voted in the 2020 election, which was the third-highest turnout rate in the nation, according to the United States Elections Project.

Iowa, however, was No. 1 on Election Day for the volume of robocalls made into any state, according to Transaction Network Services, which analyzes more than 1 billion robocalls a day.

“Lucky, lucky you,” said Jim Tyrrell, a senior director at the firm. “I’m sure that most are now happy that those days are over.”

Iowa was among the states getting the most robocalls in the weeks leading up to the election.

However, on Election Day, Nov, 3, TNS reported more than 610,000 robocalls — mostly political — were made to Iowans. On Nov. 2, the day before the election, Iowans received more than 279,000 robocalls.

The 610,000 calls, which work out to be about 19.5 per 100 Iowans, were more than the total robocalls made to Iowans in the previous week, Tyrrell said.

“So actually, on the day of the election, Iowa was the No. 1 state with the most calls per population,” he said.

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Most of the calls were being made on behalf of candidates on the ballot and political parties, he said. For the most part, the messaging was the same or similar to robocalls in the lead-up to the election.

“It was just that the intensity got ramped up,” he said.

The scams

Tyrrell also mentioned spotting a “weird scam” in the robocalls — a “stay home, stay safe” message that people across the nation got on Election Day and the days leading up to it.

TNS first noticed those calls in July. It appeared whoever was behind the calls, which ended with “this is a test,” was “spoofing” wireless numbers to increase the likelihood the people receiving the calls might recognize the number or the area code or prefix and be more likely to answer.

Now that the election is over — except in Georgia, where a January runoff election will decide two U.S. Senate seats — the volume of robocalls will dramatically drop, Tyrrell said.

That won’t stop the scams, however. It’s open enrollment period for many health insurance plans and Medicare, “so we’re seeing the fraudsters starting to really ramp up on that,” he said.

One scam these days tells people they’ve qualified for free genetic testing for cancer through Medicare.

“I think you’re trying to capitalize on the growing popularity of genetic testing and fears of a terminal illness,” Tyrrell said.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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