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."
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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.
Grant Shapps is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Welwyn Hatfield and the new co-chair of the UK Conservative Party. He's also co-owner (with his wife) of a spam factory called HowToCorp, which markets a product called TrafficPaymaster, a program that scrapes blogs/RSS/search results, runs the text through a thesaurus (seemingly to avoid copyright infringement charges) and pastebombs the resulting word-salad onto pages slathered in display ads, in the hopes of tricking search engines into returning them as results for highly ranked queries and racking up accidental click money.
Danny Sullivan explains the workings of "spinner" software like TrafficPaymaster, and documents the tricks that the Shappses' company uses to market its wares, including a web of aliases and elaborate, misleading accounts of how Google views products like TrafficPaymaster and its useless output (here's a sample of the material the Shappses' program outputs: "A free of charge golf swing lesson appears a very little as well superior to be accurate." Here's another: "So the to begin with phase to getting a quality golfer is to order some clubs that match you.")
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It’s high-profile, of course, because it’s fairly hard to believe that the new co-chair of the UK’s ruling political party (mostly ruling, the Conservatives share power with the much smaller Liberal Democrat party) is behind software that “plagiarizes” content to spam Google.
Technically, I’m not sure if the spinning is plagiarism, but both UK papers I’ve mentioned are running with that angle. They’re also big on this quote posted on Warrior Forum that appears to be from the aforementioned Sebastian Fox:
Google may or may not like a particular approach, but the real question is whether there are any signs about how a page has been created.