If you’ve ever answered a call to your cellphone that had an unfamiliar number but a local area code, making you wonder well maybe I ought to see who this is only to find out it’s a spam call, we have some bad news. That’s going to happen a lot more next year.
A new report is out predicting that almost half of all U.S. mobile traffic in 2019 will be attributable to scam calls. The forecast comes from Arkansas-based First Orion, a company that offers caller ID and call blocking technology and thinks such calls will hit 45 percent of all cellphone calls next year. That’s up from just 3.7 percent last year, which ballooned to almost 30 percent this year.
In a company blog post, First Orion said that it’s “carefully analyzed over 50 billion calls made to … customers over the past 18 months. By combining specific call patterns and behaviors with other phone number attributes, First Orion now predicts that nearly half of all calls to mobile phones will be fraudulent in 2019 unless the industry adopts and implements more effective call protection solutions.”
A big reason for the explosion in calls is that reason we mentioned right at the top. First Orion goes on to explain the most popular method to get people to pick up the phone is known as “Neighborhood Spoofing,” which happens when a scammer masks their own number and makes a local number show up on the recipient’s caller ID. Not only does that trick fool the person being called, but the owner of that faux local number that was used to make the call often gets return calls from the recipient of the scam call.
And, of course, third-party call blocking apps really don’t cut it when it comes to blocking these calls, since they really only blacklist known scam numbers, the First Orion post explains. “Not legitimate numbers that are momentarily hijacked by scammers.”
“Year after year, the scam call epidemic bombards consumers at record-breaking levels, surpassing the previous year and scammers increasingly invade our privacy at new extremes,” First Orion CEO and head data scientist Charles Morgan explains in the company’s blog post.
The problem is so pervasive that even FCC chairman Ajit Pai gets these same spoofed scam calls. He told NPR’s Planet Money in August of last year that “every now and then, even on my work Blackberry, I’ll see a call that seems to be coming . . . from the 202 area code, which is here in Washington — and then our prefix for these Blackberries. And I know for a fact that, you know, it’s probably not someone calling from the office. Sometimes, I answer just for the heck of it. And it’s– lo and behold, I’ve won a vacation… .”
Speaking of the FCC, the agency says it gets more than 200,000 complaints a year about unwanted calls. According to its 2016 estimate, Americans got about 2.4 billion unwanted calls a month, a number it’s probably fair to say has been far surpassed in the two years since then.