The incidence of fraudulent phone scams surged 55 percent higher across North America year over year in 2015, according to the latest annual Whitepages’ ¨State of the Unwanted Call¨ report. In addition, the incidence of so-called ¨pesky spam calls¨ increased 22 percent amid a 34 percent rise in spam and spam calls overall.
Using the Android Whitepages Caller ID protection app, contact information provider Whitepages studied 1.2 billion phone calls since April 2015 in producing this year’s report.
Phone Scam Stats
Whitepages identified 67 million ¨unwanted¨ calls from 2Q-4Q in total. About three-quarters (74 percent) were categorized as ¨pesky spam calls.¨ About one-quarter (26 percent) were identified as outright ¨spam calls.¨ Such high incidence rates indicates the use of deception as a primary means of making money, Whitepages noted.
“In addition to these menacing phone scams, we are also concerned about inconvenience and peace of mind,” Whitepages founder and CEO Alex Algard was quoted as saying. “At best these phone calls are a nuisance and siphon away your valuable time, but at worst, they are frightening calls in which consumers are threatened into paying large sums of money out of fear. This is why Whitepages is devoted to uncovering spammers and scammers and providing phone users with the protection they deserve.”
Highlighting these trends, Whitepages listed the top five fraudulent phone scams:
- The IRS scam (call falsely attributed to the IRS about a tax issue);
- The “Lucky Winner” scam (caller offers a false prize in order to gain financial information);
- The extortion scam (when a false story about a family member or loved one is used for financial gain);
- The tech support scam (when the caller asks for financial information in exchange for false tech support).
- Phishing scam (mainly used to extract passwords and financial information from consumers)
Telemarketers, debt collectors, robocalls and surveys were the top sources of spam calls, according to Whitepages.
AT&T was the North American telecom carrier most often targeted by phone scammers. Whitepages found that 3.8 percent of all incoming calls made via AT&T’s network were considered ¨unwanted¨ by Caller ID users.
That said, larger carriers do a better job of shielding network users from unwanted calls. Nationwide, the incidence of unwanted calls was nearly twice as high, coming in at 5.6 percent.
The Role of VoIP
Furthermore, Whitepages pointed out that VoIP is fueling increased spam and fraudulent phone calls by reducing the costs of calls.
¨Phone calls have become the most disruptive link to consumers and so far the industry has largely left consumers to fend for themselves,” commented Jan Volzke, Whitepages’ VP of Reputation Services.
Whitepages also published a list of the 10 area codes within which the highest incidence of fraudulent scam calls originated:
- 202 – Washington, D.C.
- 206 – Seattle, Washington
- 360 – Western Washington
- 509 – Spokane, Washington
- 347 – New York, New York
- 646 – New York, New York
- 876 – Jamaica (the country)
- 703 – Northern Virginia
- 415 – San Francisco, California
- 323 – Los Angeles, California