I think we can all agree that the endless plague of robo-calls has spiraled out of control. But the folks at the public data directory BeenVerified wanted to quantify exactly how much worse this onslaught has gotten. They collected data from more than 200,000 spam call reports from across the country, and crunched the numbers to see what they could find.
And while the results aren't really surprising, per se, they're certainly harrowing.
The frequency of Social Security spam calls has multiplied 23 times, from 0.4% of all spam calls in 2018, to 9.5% in 2019.
BeenVerified does acknowledge that their data does not necessarily reflect a complete picture. They actually suspect that things might be worse. "The Spam Complaint Monitor is a canary in the coal mine showing broad spam and robocall topic trends," said spokesperson Justin Lavelle. "As the data is self-reported, the total numbers of complaints related to each of these spam call topics are almost certainly higher."
The results from the BeenVerified Spam Call Complaint Monitor mirror broader trends, as more than 76,000 Social Security scam calls were reported to the Federal Trade Commission in the 12-month period ending in March 2019, with losses totaling $19 million. Losses related to IRS scams peaked at $17 million for the 12 months ending in September 2016, the FTC reports.
Less than 3.5% of Social Security scam complaints to the FTC resulted in lost cash, but when victims take the bait, the losses are comparatively high. The median reported loss was $1,500 in 2018, more than four times higher than losses from all other frauds, the FTC reports.
The good news—inasmuch as there is any—is that those annoying faux-IRS phone calls are on the decline. So you won't have to deal with as many robo-voicemails telling you that the IRS is comin' for ya.
The bad news is, of course, that this problem doesn't look like it's going away any time soon. So you should probably keep ignoring, blocking, and reporting every incoming phone call you get from a number you don't know. And you should probably pass that advice to your parents and grandparents and anyone else in your life who might not be too savvy on about infosec.
Also, Dad, if you're reading this—stop answering the phone for funsies "just to fuck with them." You're still giving them data, and audio samples they can use and manipulate. And frankly, they don't really care if you fuck with them anyway, 'cause their automated system just scammed one of those cousins you met on AncestryDNA anyway.
How to Block Robocalls and Spam Calls [Lance Whitney/PC Mag]
Image via Sarah NW/Flickr