Why Spam Calls Are At An All-Time High

Why Spam Calls Are At An All-Time High

Attention, homeowner. We are calling you from
investigation team of IRS. I’m calling in reference
to your student loan. [robocall in Mandarin]. You will be taken under
custody by the local police. We sincerely congratulate you on the
grand prize winnings of 3.5 million U.S. dollars. We all get robocalls. They’re relentless, annoying. They’re often illegal. They’re costing consumers millions. And last month, Americans
received a record-breaking 5.7 billion of them. If they are
making billions of calls and getting thousands of people to answer to trickle
down to dozens of victims every day, it’s an absolute epidemic. There is millions and millions
of dollars being lost. To date the FTC has filed
145 cases alleging telemarketing violations. The problem is so big that the
government and all four major U.S. carriers are doing
something about it. And it’s even created a new market
for hundreds of smaller companies that focus solely on stopping the scams. Why has there been such an uptick
in robocalls and what’s being done to protect us now and into the future? Robocalls can really be any
kind of pre-recorded message. It’ll usually come from
an unknown number. There are good robocalls. Things like schools and
police and fire, right? We’ve got to let those
through. Everybody wants those calls. Then there’s those middle calls that
are things like collections agencies, right? Debt collectors,
legal telemarketers. According to the YouMail robocall index,
October saw 2,115 robocalls every second, 30 million more each day than
in September, totaling 49 billion so far this year. A majority were
legal robocalls: think alerts, payment reminders and
legitimate telemarketers. But 47 % were scams. So how are scammers actually
making these illegal calls? You buy a list of leads, you plug
it into this computer, you spin up a call center. The risk of getting caught
is almost zero and the reward is millions and millions of
dollars every single year. And these calls appear
in ever-more creative ways. In October, the most popular
scams involved health, interest rates, student loans, Social
Security and warranties. You’ll receive a free five-day,
four-night magical Orlando getaway. Either a too-good-to-be-true scenario
or a fear-based scenario. So yes, people’s fears would be
something wrong with their existing bank account. Another fear would be
involved in a federal agency. So the IRS type of scam. This call is to inform you that
IRS is filing lawsuit against you. It might be a grandchild that’s calling
you up and saying that they are trapped overseas and they
lost their wallet. They call it the grandparents scam. There’s something called the Jamaican lottery
scam where they tell the consumer that they’ve won, you know, 500,000
or a million dollars in a lottery, but they just need
to pay a processing fee. [robocall in Mandarin] A new robocall scam
comes in Chinese and they are actually targeting Asian-Americans. They try to basically dupe them into
paying some type of money for a purported immigration failure
or paperwork failure. There are number neighbors scams which
trick you into answering by making it appear the caller shares the
first six digits of your number. Faking numbers like this
is called spoofing. Spoofing numbers is incredibly easy. So the caller I.D., you could set it to
be anything you want. There is no real
phone number anymore. They can basically spoof any phone number
so they can spoof the IRS’ phone number. They can spoof the
Social Security Administration’s phone number, a business’ phone number. Or they’re calling from Microsoft to go
and say that your computer has a virus, right? They will try every trick in
the book to get you to be scared and to give them money
in order to fix the problem. But how do scammers
get your phone number? Every time that you sign up for a
free service, whether it is the phone company, an app, or maybe you use your
phone number in a retail store to get coupons or build up a point
system, we’re giving out that information and it’s up to us as the consumers
to say, what are you doing with that information? Do you sell it
to a third party? Or often times they’re dialing random
numbers until someone picks up. There’s a whole criminal enterprise around
that creates lists of numbers that are active. So if you’ve ever
gotten a call from an unknown number, you pick it up
and there’s nobody there. That could be one of these services that
are checking to see if your phone is active and being used. On average every single person in
the United States gets 1.3 robocalls every single day. With advances in phone technology, so
too came the rise of robocalling. Roughly around the 80s the telephone
system changed from analog to digital. And now anybody can kind of
go and plug into the phone system. So this has been great
because we get wireless phones. We get low-cost calling. We have Skype, we have WhatsApp. But the negative side to that, right,
the dark side to that is that scammers can go and jump on there,
partner up with a shady phone carrier and start blasting out millions and
millions of calls with pre-recorded messages. In 2018, the FCC got
more than 230,000 complaints about unwanted calls, up 25 % from 2017, making it
by far the largest single complaint it receives. When it comes to who falls
for the scams, there’s an interesting trend. The Better Business Bureau found last
year that people age 18 to 24 were actually more than twice as
susceptible to robocalls as people over age 65. Although the average older consumer
lost more than four times the money. And that’s the simple answer to
why robocalls are on the rise. Criminals are making millions. In one famous case, a Florida man
made 96 million spoofed calls in just three months in 2016, trying to
sell victims vacations from well-known travel companies. I’m not the kingpin
of robocalling that is alleged. The FCC was able to identify Mr. Abramovitch. They imposed a $120
million fine on him. There’s been a recent flurry of
success in catching and prosecuting illegal robocallers. After Abramovich’s record-setting fine last
year, the FCC fined another robocaller $82 million and proposed
another fine of $37.5 million. And the Department of Justice
arrested 24 people who were helping one India based call center
defraud thousands of U.S. residents out of hundreds
of millions of dollars. The callers were sentenced with up
to 20 years in jail. Text message scams are also illegal. A precedent set by a $10 million
settlement in 2009 with a company that sent 60,000 unsolicited
advertisement texts. The customer doesn’t trust
the phone anymore. There’s a complete lack of trust in the
phone system and we have to get that back. The good news is
detection is now readily available. We might see a new number that we’ve
never seen before all of a sudden start pumping out tons
and tons of calls. And so while you can go and hide,
try and hide your tracks, you can’t hide those patterns. All four major U.S. cell carriers now offer some
form of detection and blocking. We were the first to implement
a network-based scam detection and we actually identify if a call is a
scam and then we actually change the caller I.D. So instead of the person’s
name, you see the word Scam Likely. And we didn’t make people download
an app or take any action. And that Scam Likely label has
gained a lot of popularity. We’ve seen t-shirts printed with it. There’s a Scam Likely
beer that’s been made. T-mobile has a more stringent set
of filters available for $3.99 a month and another free option that
stops scam calls from coming in at all. And since we’ve started in March
of 2017, we’ve flagged over 15 billion calls as Scam Likely. Verizon’s program is opt-in
instead of automatic. Customers download a free Call Filter
app which sends known scam calls straight to voicemail and a premium
version is available for $2.99 a month. What we’re doing beyond that
is making sure that we’re working with federal lawmakers, the FCC and
other carriers and partners to make sure that we start blocking these at
the network level itself, so the calls won’t even reach you. At Sprint, customers also opt in,
enrolling in free basic spam detection or $2.99 a month Premium Caller I.D. AT&T recently added fraud blocking and
suspected spam alerts to millions of lines, making it
automatic for new customers. And then there’s a growing number of
apps and third party services focused entirely on solving this problem. Between 2016 and 2018, you’ve seen a
growth in smartphone apps alone from about 85 in 2016 to
north of 500 in 2018. Nomorobo is one popular app. It’s free for landline
protection and $1.99 a month for mobile. If you get
your phone service from your cable company or Vonage or Ooma or any kind of
those, our service is available and we’re analyzing millions and millions of
calls every single month. Every day we add 1,500
new numbers to our blacklist. Our blacklist is over
2 million known robocallers. Another popular service is YouMail,
a voicemail management service that also blocks robocalls. And companies like First Orion, Hiya
and TNS Call Guardian partner with carriers to offer
blocking and labeling. And antivirus company NortonLifeLock
recently finished an education campaign teaching 17,000 law enforcement about
how to spot the most common scams and help those
who call in complaints. There’s also a new popular
homegrown approach: scam the scammers. So you said you were
trying to make a payment? I’m just a little shook up. I actually had like an
alien encounter this morning. This tactic takes up valuable time the
scammers may have used to make other phony calls. You can pay an
app called RoboKiller to do this for you. For $2.99 a month, its answer
bots will drive the spammers nuts from any of the almost 1.3 million scam call numbers
on its list. And there’s one more big player in
the robocall prevention space: the U.S. government. Robocalls to non-consenting individuals
were outlawed by the Telephone Consumer Protection
Act in 1991. Violators are charged between $500
and $1500 per legal call. In one huge class action verdict, the
scammers are paying $925 million in damages. Another recent settlement cost
the robocaller $76 million. Each class member will get
approximately $250 per call. Many class members received tens, some
received hundreds of calls, which is quite a large
recovery for telephone calls. Spoofing has been illegal since 2009, when
the FCC passed the Truth in Caller I.D. Act. And this year,
Congress passed two more laws. The TRACED Act passed out of the Senate by
a vote of 97 to one and the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act passed out of the
House by a vote of 429 to three. Both bills require carrier
participation in a program called SHAKEN/STIR, which verifies the calling number
and helps trace the origin of the call, although it won’t determine
whether the call is legal or a scam. Rupy also helped start a new
traceback program in hopes of catching more scammers. There are about 30
different companies participating in the effort. They will identify suspicious or
illegal traffic and they will select a small sampling of these
calls and trace these calls back. In September, California passed a
new stringent Consumer Call Protection Act of 2019, shifting the burden
of compliance to service providers instead of the callers themselves. And in August, all 50 State
Attorney Generals and 12 voice providers signed onto eight
new anti-robocall principles. The government can’t do it alone. We must have our friends in the private
industry to step up to the plate and to block these illegal robocalls. But for now, the number
of calls is only growing. We are dealing with a very
crafty adversary and as mitigation efforts improve, they will change
their tactics almost certainly. So what can we as consumers do? Don’t answer numbers that
you don’t recognize, right? Don’t believe what the
caller is saying. And whatever you do, do not
pay for anything over the phone. And register your number on the
Federal Trade Commission’s official Do Not Call registry. By signing up, you’re
protected from certain legal forms of robocalls, and it’s enforced. In 2017, for example, Dish Network was
fined $280 million for making calls to people on the list. There are a large universe of
legitimate telemarketers that honor that list and follow that list. And eventually, experts agree that we
will see a radical decrease in robocalls. People are listening. It is a bipartisan issue. Everyone is annoyed by this
and legislation is being enacted. If we all do it
well, scammers will give up. It will not be profitable for them. They will stop. We’re making it more
difficult for the robocallers to get their message out. So what are they going to do? Make more calls. In the short term, it’s
actually going to get worse. But the long term: now that we’ve
proven that robocall blocking is a thing, it works, it’s reliable, I think
this is just going to become a basic feature of every phone
and every phone carrier. And hopefully in a couple of years,
we’re going to forget about this problem. This is the final
attempt to reach you. Press one now.


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