According to the yearly report published by Stockholm-based phone number-identification service Truecaller, spam calls grew by 300 percent year-over-year in 2018. The report also found that telecom operators themselves are much to blame.
Between January and October of this year, Truecaller said, users worldwide received about 17.7 billion spam calls. That’s up from some 5.5 billion spam calls they received last year. For its study, Truecaller says it looked at aggregated data of incoming calls that its users marked as spam, as well as other calls that were automatically flagged by its system.
One of the most interesting takeaways from the report is a sharp surge in spam calls users received in Brazil this year, making it the most spammed country in the world. According to Truecaller, an average user in Brazil received over 37 spam calls in a month, up from some 20 spam calls during the same period last year.
According to the report, telecom operators (at 32 percent) remained the biggest spammers in Brazil. The report also acknowledged the general election as an event that drove up spam calls in the country.
India, which was the most spammed country in the world last year, saw a marginal decrease (1.5 percent) in the volume of spam calls users received this year. As in Brazil, Indians were bombarded by telecom operators (a whopping 91 percent of all spam calls came from them) and service providers trying to sell them expensive plans and other offerings.
Spam calls received by users in the U.S. were down from 20.7 calls in a month to 16.9, while users in the U.K. saw a drop in their monthly dose of spam calls from 9.2 to 8.9. Other European markets, however, witnessed a big surge in spam calls. Spain saw a 100 percent increase, Greece a 54.1 percent rise, and users in Italy reported a 22.7 percent increase.
Truecaller also reported that scam calls subjecting victims to fraud attempts and money swindling are still a prevalent issue. One in every 10 American adults lost money from a phone scam, according to a yearly report the firm published in April this year (Truecaller worked with the Harris Poll to survey over 2,000 Americans aged 18 or higher). Scam calls cost 24.9 million people in the U.S. an estimated $8.9 billion in total losses.
And such scams are a global issue. Canada saw a 67 percent increase in scam calls, while users in the U.K. and India reported receiving twice as many scam calls this year.
Government agencies and companies worldwide are scrambling to get on top of the problem. In the U.S., both the House and Senate held hearings on the issue of robocalls this year. The FCC urged telecom operators to stop robocalls by next year. And some are pushing for stronger measures.
Massachusetts senator Ed Markey (D) and South Dakota senator John Thune (R) last month introduced a bill to significantly ramp up penalties for illegal robocalls. India’s telecom authority forced Apple to make changes to its iOS mobile operating system to support an app that can detect unwanted spam calls and texts. In China, Apple and local telecom operators are exploring the use of machine learning to curb spam texts. And Google is slowly expanding the reach of its Duplex technology, which, among other things, frees users from the annoyance of spam calls.