Robocalls Spike in Time for the Holiday Season

By Greg Tavarez November 20, 2023

Robocalls are like persistent, intrusive exes of the digital age, and they refuse to take the hint to move on. It's as if your phone has a secret admirer with the personality of a clingy robot who just won't quit.

Picture this: Your phone rings at the most inconvenient times. Instead of receiving a call from someone you care about, you're greeted by a robotic monotone reciting a script that's less interesting than watching paint dry.

But I digress.

The fact is robocalls are here to stay. U.S. consumers received over 4.6 billion robocalls in October, a 7.9% increase from September's volume, as robocall volumes continue to oscillate between roughly 4.5 billion and 5 billion robocalls per month, according to the YouMail Robocall Index. To back up YouMail’s (News - Alert) data, Robokiller Insights found that robocalls reached 4.8 billion in October.

The spike is attributed to scammers shifting their tactics. They're flooding Americans with well-timed scams that surround current monetary events such as holiday shopping and student loan repayments. Those of you with student loans surely have gotten at least one call trying to get you with the “We need to talk about changes on your repayment options...” type of message.

YouMail also found that the most unwanted robocall was a police charity scam. The caller would claim to be from the National Police and Trooper Association seeking “donations” to support law enforcement officers as well as to support the families of fallen officers.

"October's increase comes as a small surprise following a large drop in calls from telemarketers over the previous month," said YouMail CEO Alex Quilici (News - Alert). "We need to follow the trendlines to determine if call volumes will continue to fluctuate, or whether we have reached a period of steadily growing illegal calls as we enter the holiday season."

But a concerning trend (enough to concern the government, according to Robokiller) revolves around the use of generative AI. This technology allows scammers to produce convincing deep fakes or replicate the voices of acquaintances to obtain personal information. The government is acting though as it aims to counter AI-driven robocalls with AI-based solutions, acknowledging that implementing such regulations will require time.

“Generative AI affords scammers the ability to mask their true identities and appear more trustworthy even as they steal money and personal information from you,” said Giulia Porter, Vice President at Robokiller.

Robokiller also looked at the robotexts trend and found that robotexts reached 12.8 billion in October. Scammers increasingly rely on robotexts due to their cost-effective and scalable nature. Automated texting allows fraudsters to target a vast number of potential victims simultaneously, especially with texting as the preferred way of communication.

Robotexts are not only efficient in reaching a wide audience but also enable scammers to employ various tactics, such as phishing schemes and impersonation scams, with minimal effort. The anonymity and speed of robotexts provide scammers with an adaptable tool to perpetrate fraud on a large scale.

As the holiday shopping season commenced, scammers inundated consumers with robotexts associated with delivery scams. These deceptive SMS tactics saw a 16% surge from September, according to Robokiller. It’s advised Americans to remain vigilant for messages that appear to be from reputable shipping companies, as they might include counterfeit shipping links or prompts to update shipping preferences.

"The usual seasonal trends like delivery-related scams caused an increase in October,” said Porter. “We suggest consumers install a mobile security app like Robokiller to protect themselves from falling victim.”

Porter is right. Sure, the government is confronting robocalls and robotexts through initiatives such as STIR/SHAKEN, but consumers have some power to help deflect robocalls through defense apps such as Robokiller and YouMail.

Robokiller is dedicated to protecting consumers from emerging phone scams by adding new features to its mobile security suite. Its recent addition of personal data protection gives consumers greater control over their online presence by empowering them to remove their personal data from data broker websites that scammers scour for targets.

YouMail blocks unwanted robocallers by making sure the user's phone doesn't ring, and then plays an out-of-service message that leads them to think they dialed an invalid number. YouMail identifies problematic numbers and robocalls using a combination of its recently patented audio fingerprinting technology, call patterns, and consumer feedback.

The two are dedicated to creating a world without spam, protecting brands against scams perpetrated under their names.

Edited by Alex Passett
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