Robocalling is the worst. Not only do these spam calls annoy us to no end, but they scam hundreds of thousands of people out of hard-earned money every year. And last year was no different, despite increased efforts blocking robocalls. Let’s start with some stats on robocalls for 2020. Some of these numbers will surprise you.
Thanks to Whistleout.com for the data.
Robocalling Statistics For 2020
Total Scam Calls For The Last Three Years
Despite these numbers being in the billions, you can see that the total amount of robocalls made in 2020 in the United States went way down from the previous year. This is almost certainly due to COVID-19 lockdown measures as well as the TRACED Act. Coronavirus precautions worldwide kept consumers at home and put a wrench in major calling campaigns by sidelining the call center agents responsible. But regardless of how and why it happened, this is great news. Especially knowing that robocalls went up in 2018 and even higher in 2019. Any downward trend is a welcome sight.
But still, over 45 billion robocalls last year! That works out to about 12 calls per American per month!
Wonder what states get the most scam calls? We were shocked by this list:
Top 10 States That Received The Most Scam Calls In 2020
- New Jersey
Why are the nefarious minds behind robotic scam calls targeting Arizona?! Your guess is as good as ours. And what did the people in Maine do to deserve so many? This list is curious on so many levels.
Now, here are the states that received the least amount of scam calls last year:
Top 10 States That Received The Least Scam Calls In 2020
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Somehow, Alaska taking the number 1 spot on this list doesn’t surprise us. It’s also interesting to note that half of the states on this list are on the east coast.
What Can We Expect In 2021?
Unfortunately, current information on robocalls for 2021 show that their efforts have ramped up considerably. In January alone, 5.13 billion robocalls were made. That’s 19 calls per American for the month. Here are the area codes that received the most scam calls in January:
- 202 (California)
- 740 (Ohio)
- 520 (Arizona)
- 936 (Texas)
- 937 (Ohio)
- 60 (California)
- 909 (California)
- 928 (Arizona)
- 770 (Georgia)
- 919 (North Carolina)
What’s more is that it seems we live in age of ever-increasing misinformation. And that is precisely what the scammers behind robocalling (and robotexting) thrive on. The more naive or misinformed we are, the easier it is for these villains to gain access to our personal information and bank accounts. Most of these scam calls give themselves away within seconds. But some of them are expertly devised and hard to identify. And you know that these scammers are always coming up with new ways to trick us into giving them access to our sensitive information.
So far this year, we’ve already seen more and more telecom carriers implement the very effective robocall mitigation program STIR/SHAKEN. But even with all of the commercial-grade software and mobile apps designed to protect us, you can’t let your guard down. Staying vigilant and keeping yourself informed about new scam tactics is the only real way to keep your sensitive information secret. It is still the most effective method of blocking robocalls.
5 Developments That Will Affect Robocalling In 2021
Here are some things that will most certainly play out this year related to robocalling. These items range from scam campaigns we know are being launched this year to specific ways that industry forces and governments mean to stop them.
1. The TRACED Act Is Gaining More Traction
In Dec 2019, the TRACED Act was signed (or, more specifically, the Pallone-Thune TRACED ACT). This regulation requires voice service providers (specifically medium and large companies) to implement the STIR/SHAKEN software as well as to get their non-IP networks upgraded. The Act states this all must be done by the last day of June this year. Smaller voice services have a more loose deadline – a 2-year extension, to be exact – due to the economic strain of 2020.
As of this writing, it’s been more than a year since the Act was initiated. Though we haven’t yet seen the full materialization of the TRACED Act’s expected relief, the law’s effects are becoming discernible.
The Act is already making it easier for law enforcement officials, the FTC, and the FCC to identify and prosecute robocalling scammers. Data already exists to suggest the number of phone-based fraudulent schemes is being reduced as a result. Last year, state attorney generals country-wide were more aggressive than ever in combatting robocalls. In one case, the attorney general of Michigan identified and charged two political operatives in a voter suppression robocall operation. And that’s only one example of many from last year.
This year, they’re being even more aggressive. The TRACED Act is giving support to more extreme call authentication measures and increased fines for robocalling campaigns. This is great news as we’ve already seen the use of call centers in robocalling scams go up this year compared to last. The professionals are getting better at blocking robocalls all the time.
2. Call Legitimacy Solutions And Branded Calling Are Being More Widely Adopted
Last year, COVID data included lots of unquantifiable numbers (unnecessary exposures, additional cases, etc) because of the mixed success experts had with contact tracing. Part of this mixed success was due to the fact that people today are more disinclined than ever to answer calls from unknown numbers. Some health experts referred to this fact as a possible public health concern as it represents a serious hurdle for those conducting contact tracing.
We bring this up because it offers a prime example of why branded calling solutions are a big need this year. What is are they? Branded calling solutions involve a verifiable and valid logo, name, and message that shows up on your screen when the call comes in, regardless of if you have the contact saved in your phone. Many public health agencies around the country are already utilizing BCS in hopes that more people will answer their calls. And where robocall scams are concerned, BCS will help authenticate legitimate callers from illegitimate ones. Which, in turn, will provide more relevant call data to networks and trackers. This will make scam protection algorithms more effective.
3. Phone Scams Will Be More Convincing Then Ever
This is why you need to be constantly aware of robocall scams. They’re only going to get more sophisticated and blocking robocalls on your own will be harder if you don’t stay aware. Take the COVID phone scams that proliferated last year (and are still going on now). Whatever is topical at the time, scammers will pick up on it and play along. Millions of people throughout 2020 reported scam calls about phony stimulus check info and fake COVID test kits.
Scammers are also getting better at circumventing call threshold regulations. They’re able to keep their call volume below these thresholds by making lists of thousands of numbers and spreading their calls across all of them. This allows them to avoid triggering alarms set by call authentication systems. The term for this tactic is called snowshoe spamming.
There is also a new development that’s much more concerning. You may have heard of phone scammers targeting certain individuals using personal information that is publicly available. Well, reports have started coming in about scam calls that use what’s referred to as deep-fake technology. Using AI, robocall software is getting adept at imitating the voices of people you know; coworkers, friends, even family. And this tech is only going to get more sophisticated as time goes on. This is a very scary up-and-coming development being used to con people out of their personal information and money.
4. The Rise Of Robotexting
Have you received a scam text before? Though they aren’t as common as robocalls, they are steadily becoming more prevalent. These fraudulent text messages are already sophisticated enough to put your personal information stored on your phone in jeopardy simply by clicking on the hyperlink included in the text. As you would expect, the websites these texts lead you to are fake and are designed to extort your sensitive information and your money.
And there’s more. Robotexts are being used to do more than steal from you. They’re being used to sow mass confusion. Many false information campaigns have been identified, particularly around last year’s presidential election. Others have been identified as pushing fake government stimulus plans and peddling other “free” offers. The sky is unfortunately the limit for robotext scammers when it comes to disinformation potential.
5. Scammers Still Know Precisely What Carriers To Target
We’ve already mentioned the blocking robocalls framework STIR/SHAKEN that the telecom industry has adopted nationwide. The thing is, as of now, only Tier-1 carriers are universally adopting it (remember they have until the last day of June this year to implement). Despite these measures, the 2-year extension we mentioned at the beginning of this article leaves a wide window open for scammers to continue wreaking havoc. It’s provided them with a route that they can use with minimal detection.
To put it plainly, almost 100% of robocalls originate from numbers not owned by Tier-1 carriers. And in all likelihood, this won’t stop until all of these small carriers implement STIR/SHAKEN and other mitigation solutions. Hopefully, for all of our sakes, it happens sooner than later.
Blocking Robocalls: What To Expect In 2021 And What To Do About It – Conclusion
The world’s response to COVID-19 has certainly altered- at least for the time being – how we live, work, and learn. But 2021 remains brighter. Yes, despite the lockdown’s positive effect on robocall campaigns, these bad guys are back at it stronger than ever. But new protective technologies will make it harder for them to succeed, as will our efforts to educate ourselves on these matters. Stay informed on the tactics they use and the new fiendish campaigns. There will always be scammers that take advantage of us, particularly during the age of COVID. You can avoid falling victim in 2021 and get better at blocking robocalls by fortifying your own intellectual defenses.