FBI investigating robocalls urging people to 'stay home' on Election Day

FBI investigating robocalls urging people to 'stay home' on Election Day
  • Clock-gray 05:26
  • calendar-gray 04 November 2020

The FBI is looking into a spate of mysterious robocalls urging people to stay home on Election Day as the nation remains on high alert to ensure voting is not compromised, a Department of Homeland Security official said Tuesday, APA reports.

U.S. state and local officials have been raising the alarm over at least two separate automated call campaigns as millions of Americans cast their votes on Tuesday to decide between President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden.

Experts who spoke to Reuters say they are mystified by one of the campaigns, which tells people to remain home but does not explicitly mention voting.

“There’s a little bit of confusion about this one across the industry,” said Giulia Porter, vice president at RoboKiller, a company that fights telemarketers and robocalls and has been tracking the campaign.

Audio of the calls, which RoboKiller shared with Reuters, features a synthetic female voice saying: “Hello. This is just a test call. Time to stay home. Stay safe and stay home.” Porter said the call had been placed millions of times in the past 11 months or so but had on Tuesday shot up to No. 5 or No. 6 in the list of top spam calls.

“This robocall is being sent at a very high volume,” she said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was aware of reports of robocalls and had no further comment.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is aware of reports about the robocalls, an FCC official said Tuesday.

Porter said her company was still in the process of compiling figures on the campaign’s intensity on Tuesday but estimated that “thousands or tens of thousands” of people had received it.

One of them was Hashim Warren, a 40-year-old Democratic voter who lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, and works in marketing at a web development company.

Warren, who is Black, said the call triggered anxieties he and his wife already had about potential violence around the election from far-right supporters of President Donald Trump.

“Instead of saying like, Election Day is not today, the fact that it said ‘stay safe’ felt both vile and prescient as if they knew there were other things, real things happening in the world, not robocalls, that were making myself and my wife feel anxious,” Warren said in a telephone interview.

Janaka Stucky, 42, a Democratic voter who lives in Medford, Massachusetts, also received the robocall this morning.

“My first thought was that actually it was a municipal test call for a COVID lockdown thing,” he told Reuters.

“The more I thought about it I was like, oh this actually feels really off and weird and then started to feel like it was some sort of, maybe, voter suppression effort,” he added.

He said he voted weeks ago. “Joke’s on the robocalls. I’m stocked up on Halloween candy and I already voted,” he said.

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