A new report from the anti-spam call website Robokiller.com indicates that there have been more than 40 billion spam calls made in the United States this year already.
If the trend continues, that would represent a projected loss of $615 million to consumers, according to Robokiller.com’s Mid-Year Phone Scam Report. It says Americans continue to be tricked out of their money by way of scam calls, citing fraud data from the Federal Trade Commission.
In this article, I’ll go over some key data from the report, including what the #1 phone scam is. I’ll also share some tips from money expert Clark Howard and Team Clark.
Phone Scammers Are Coming for Your Wallet
Here are some key findings from the report:
- Spam calls increased 30% per month between June and December 2020.
- Spam calls slowed at the start of 2021, which the report attributes to the COVID pandemic as well as mobile carriers’ push to implement their respective STIR/SHAKEN protocols (which we’ll discuss later) for call blocking.
- Still, Americans are on track to receive 30% more spam calls this year compared to last year.
Have You Received This Particular Scam Call?
One scam call in particular — the car warranty variety — continues to be the most used by criminals, according to the study.
“It’s statistically possible that every smartphone owner in the United States will have received more than one car warranty scam [call] by the end of 2021,” the study says.
Here are the top phone scams by topic, estimated through the end of this year, according to the report:
|Spam Call Topic||Estimated Spam Calls in 2021|
|Car Warranty||12.9 billion|
|Health Insurance||6.3 billion|
|Student Loans||4.1 billion|
|Vacation Scams||4 billion|
|Social Security||3.3 billion|
|Credit Card and Bank||2.3 billion|
Clark says no matter how convincing the person on the phone is, turn down that car warranty offer.
“You can have absolute frauds where people tell you that they’ll cover everything on your car, and people fall for it. But there is no warranty at all. They just steal your money,” he says.
“Even if they are some kind of marketing company, the truth is getting paid on a claim from one of these marketing firms is nearly impossible,” he adds.
How To Stop Scam Calls
Because scam calls and other robocalls are such a problem, you may be wondering what you can do about them. Here are some tips.
Register Your Phone on the Do Not Call List
The free National Do Not Call Registry is mainly to stop telemarketers from inundating you with calls, but if you want to cut down on spam calls in general, it won’t hurt to register.
You can add your landline or cell phone number to the list by going online to DoNotCall.gov or calling 1-888-382-1222 from the phone you want to register.
Don’t Know Who’s Calling You? Don’t Answer
Lori Silverman, director of Clark’s Consumer Action Center, says her advice on potential scam calls — and any phone call — will never change:
“Never answer the phone if you do not know who it is,” she says. “If the call is important, they will leave a message. If you do answer a call, NEVER give personal information or pay over the phone.”
Use Your Wireless Provider’s Spam Call Blocker
Many of the major wireless carriers have implemented the industry standard protocol known as STIR/SHAKEN , which stands for Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN).
The protocol lets customers know whether a call is really coming from the number listed on caller ID.
Some mobile phone companies offer paid services to block spam callers, but here are the free options for the major carriers.
- T-Mobile: The carrier offers the Scam Shield app (iOS and Android).
- AT&T: The mobile phone provider lets you turn on its call blocker by pressing *60. Press *61 to add your most recent call to the list. The AT&T Mobile Security app (iOS and Android) gives you more features.
- Verizon: The company offers its mobile customers Call Filter, a free app (iOS and Android) that screens and autoblocks incoming spam calls.
You can bet that criminals are going to continue to find ways around anti-robocall software and initiatives from the phone companies and the U.S. government.
At the end of the day, if you don’t know who’s calling you, you shouldn’t answer the call. As Lori says above, if it’s important, they’ll leave a message.