Robocalls and Other Phone Scams Remain a Steady Threat

We’ve all received them – those random calls from an unknown number that are annoying or threatening or anything in between. Sometimes these automated calls are from legitimate entities to inform you about an important appointment. Other times a real human is on the end of the line, calling about any number of things. But amidst all the authentic calls that you may want or need to receive are billions of bogus attempts to scam everyday citizens out of something – most likely your money or personal information.

Spam and sales calls have been around for nearly as long as the telephone has been with us. With the rise of the cell phone, things escalated to another level entirely. Scammers quickly realized that they had near constant potential access to, well, almost everyone. The entirety of the 21st century has seen a steady rise in identity theft and fraud, and a simple phone call remains a pillar for criminals looking to con you.

Phone Scam Statistics

A quick look at the numbers reveals that a shocking amount of money is still being stolen utilizing phone calls as a foundation for fraud.

Through the first three quarters of 2021, nearly 60 million Americans reported losing money because of a phone scam. These people lost nearly $30 billion making an all-time high average of $502 lost per individual. Every person with a cell phone receives over 30 scam calls a month, which works out to about one call a day. That’s for every single one of us.

And despite 85% of people reporting that they try not to answer calls from numbers that they don’t recognize, the issue persists.  With these statistics, it’s not difficult to see why criminals still utilize spam calls as a highly effective means to scam people.

Attempts to Slow the Problem

Recognizing this glaring problem, the FCC set out to establish a set of rules that voice service providers need to follow. This framework of standards is known as STIR/SHAKEN and was created in an attempt to reduce the successful fraud rate of spoofed robocalls. While the acronym sounds like a James Bond reference, it stands for Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN).

It’s a mouthful, but essentially, it means that calls within phone networks need to have their caller ID verified as being authentic before those calls reach consumers. A digital validation occurs when a call goes through various networks of service providers, and the ultimate goal of this is to verify that the number listed on Caller ID is the real number that is making the call.

The STIR/SHAKEN rules have been in the works for several years. Official requirements for providers were implemented in April 2021, with providers mandated to have a robocall mitigation program in place to make sure they aren’t allowing illegal calls. Large carriers like the biggest cell phone companies needed to have these measures in place by June 30, 2021, while small carriers with under 100,000 customers were given more time, and many of these still don’t have the measures fully in place to comply with the rules.

In more straightforward terms, the goal of this regulatory framework was to hold voice service providers more accountable for limiting robocalls in order to protect consumers. It has had an effect, with the three major cell phone providers reporting hundreds of millions of fewer fake calls every month. These companies also have services you can sign up for to warn you of potential spam calls on Caller ID, which is a nice perk, even though it doesn’t prevent the calls from coming in.

But has all of this stopped scams, spoofs, and robocalls entirely? Not even close.

How to Spot a Phone Scam

There are plenty of different phone scams out there to be aware of. Many of these play on emotional triggers to trick victim targets into quick reactions before realizing that a call is fake. Some common examples of this are a phone call saying that you have won money or that you’ll be arrested if you don’t send payment for taxes, fines, or any other phony reason. Excitement and fear cause us to react, so it’s important to understand this when you receive a scam call.

Never feel forced into taking action. Never give out your personal information to an unsolicited source. Never send money or provide financial information with the promise of getting more money in return. Government agencies won’t call you to request sensitive information. If you receive a call from someone stating that they are from the IRS or Social Security Administration, it’s most likely a scam.

The best course of action is to hang up on the scammer. If you are signed up for the National Do Not Call Registry, you should not be receiving any sales calls, so it’s a scam if you do. The call blocking services offered by your cell phone carrier can also prevent some calls from occurring.

Take a look at some other good tips and advice about phone scams from the FTC here.

It’s Not Always Robots

It’s also important to understand that as new rules and regulations pop up to combat phone scams, criminals adapt their tactics to slip through the cracks and continue their fraud attempts via telephone. A recent phone scam occurring in Georgia highlights this.

The United States Marshals Service just put out a press release asking for the public’s help in stopping a scam involving criminals successfully impersonating law enforcement officers with the threat of arrest for failure to appear in court. The threat actors in this scam demand payment of a fine to avoid arrest. They provide badge numbers, real courthouse addresses, and spoofed phone numbers to authenticate their claims. It’s all bogus, but it’s been working to great effect.

Phone scams are here to stay. General awareness and ongoing caution are critical for everyone with a cell phone in their pocket. Despite attempts from government agencies and cell phone providers to limit robocalls and spoofing, scammers are still stealing billions of dollars every year. Always remain skeptical if you receive a suspicious call from a known or unknown number, and don’t fall for attempts to threaten or excite you into divulging personal information.

LibertyID provides expert, full service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.

*LibertyID defines an extended family as: you, your spouse/partner, your parents and parents-in-law, and your children under the age of 25.