World Reimagined

2023 State of Robocalls Reports Show There’s Still a Lot of Work to Be Done

person holding a phone

After crackdowns by the Federal Communications Commission and cellular providers, you’ve likely noticed that you get fewer robocalls than you used to. And it’d be easier to think the problem isn’t as bad as it used to be. But just as hackers in other areas of technology have found ways to work around blockades, scammers who use robocalls are finding new ways to separate people from their money.

Americans lost an estimated $87 billion to robocalls and phone scams last year, according to RoboKiller, an app that strives to eliminate spam calls. That’s a 116% increase from 2021. The total number of robocalls that reached consumers was in the neighborhood of 86 million.

There are, however, new protections coming online all the time. T-Mobile, earlier this month, announced its Scam Shield program, which is built into its network, had identified or blocked 41.5 billion calls last year, a 75% increase over the previous year.

Put another way: That’s 1,317 spam calls that were blocked or identified every second.

“With scammers quickly evolving their tactics, we have to be just as fast at adapting our scam identification technology to fight back and keep customers protected,” said Neville Ray, president of technology at T-Mobile.

The problem of robocalls isn’t restricted to the U.S., of course. Globally, phone fraud reached record peaks in the fourth quarter of last year, according to a report from Hiya, a voice security company. In the last three months of 2022, the company says it identified 7.5 billion instances of phone spam. And a big part of that surge took place in Europe, with the United Kingdom seeing the worst of it.

More than half the calls British citizens receive are fraud-based, Hiya said. Some are oldies but goodies, like those that impersonate Amazon or the UK’s tax agency, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, but the rising cost of living brought out a new form of scammer, tied to an energy rebate that took effect October 1st.

“Research has found that people living under financial strain are more likely to be scammed,” said Kush Parikh, President of Hiya. “Cost of living spikes, including skyrocketing energy prices in Europe, are almost certainly to blame for the increase in phone scams over the past months. Worldwide, consumers are drowning in phone spam and fraud, damaging the reputation of telecom carriers. Carriers must double-down on voice security to improve the trust and privacy of their customers.”

In the U.S., healthcare scams are the new favorite of robocallers, displacing the well-known auto warranty scam (which was greatly curtailed by the FCC).

Other popular scams circle around Amazon and credit cards. In the Amazon scam, a robocaller claims a large purchase has been made to the recipient’s Amazon account and suggests users press a number to refute the charge. When that happens, a “live agent” comes on and gets the victim’s credit card number.

In credit card scams, the criminals pose as representatives of a bank or credit card, often stating that there has been a purchase that didn’t clear and to resolve matters they’ll need to get your credit card or bank account information.

The good news? While scammers and robocall houses are still evading efforts to stop them, there are plenty of companies that are working to assist authorities and carriers. Nomorobo, for instance, has set up a bank of 350,000 phone lines, which interact with robocalls and scammers via A.I.

The company has taken and scrutinized millions of calls, noting details such as their location and the scam they’re running, then blocks them via its tool, which is free to download, and works with law enforcement personnel to shut down the groups operating them.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Chris Morris

Chris Morris is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience, more than half of which were spent with some of the Internet’s biggest sites, including CNNMoney.com, where he was Director of Content Development, and Yahoo! Finance, where he was managing editor. Today, he writes for dozens of national outlets including Digital Trends, Fortune, and CNBC.com.

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