Robocall Scam of the Month

Top Robocalls Scams by State

Unwanted Calls Nationwide

TNS estimates that more than 76.2  billion unwanted  calls were made in the last 12 months representing a 3% decrease over the last 12 months versus the previous 12 months.  Unwanted calls remained flat from April to May at 5.7B.  This represents a 3% increase from May 2021 to May 2022.

Unwanted calls are comprised of Nuisance calls and High-Risk calls. The severity of harm of nuisance calls are moderate. The severity of harm for high-risk calls is deemed as a major invasion of privacy that can cause emotional distress.

TNS Heatmap of Originating Unwanted Calls

Top 10 Area Codes for Generating Unwanted Calls - May 22

Rank NPA Area Total
1 480 AZ 8,617,406
2 201 NJ 8,138,776
3 775 NV 6,948,085
4 202 DC 6,911,437
5 720 CO 6,760,131
6 623 AZ 6,711,338
7 209 CA 6,637,085
8 602 AZ 6,572,741
9 313 MI 6,305,908
10 470 GA 6,276,164

Top 10 Area Codes for Generating Unwanted Calls - April 22

Rank NPA Area Total
1 201 NJ 20,054,734
2 480 AZ 9,024,550
3 602 AZ 8,112,655
4 470 GA 7,316,074
5 813 FL 6,339,077
6 202 WA 6,245,928
7 213 CA 5,882,701
8 520 AZ 5,825,864
9 720 CO 5,770,529
10 614 OH 5,616,583

Top 10 Area Codes for Generating Unwanted Calls - April 2021

Rank NPA Area Total
1 614 OH 7,318,063
2 202 DC 6,689,266
3 720 CO 6,631,545
4 520 AZ 5,481,215
5 602 AZ 5,391,121
6 704 NC 5,306,215
7 970 CO 5,268,593
8 928 AZ 5,079,474
9 470 GA 5,064,212
10 213 CA 5,032,704

TNS Calling Trust Index

The TNS Calling Trust Index is a measure of the crowd-source feedback for the unwanted calls that TNS receives in relation to the total number of calls a subscriber receives. The index gives an indication of the consumer trust in voice calling.

TNS Complaint Index

The TNS Complaint Index is a measure of the FCC complaints for the Don Not Call List in relation to the total number of unwanted calls seen by TNS. The index gives an indication to how many consumers are sending in complaints to the FCC relative to the number of unwanted robocalls they receive.


Transaction Network Services (TNS) Call Guardian provides industry-leading solutions that uses realtime call events combined with crowd-sourced data to create accurate and comprehensive reputation profiles differentiating legitimate users of communication services from abusive, fraudulent, and unlawful users.

TNS Robocall Report March 2021

The data, convention and trends that plague consumers’ phones daily

We analyzed over 1.5 billion daily call events across hundreds of carriers to get an objective, first-hand view of robocalling, spamming and spoofing.

Did you know …?

  • Robocalls were slightly up in 2021
  • COVID-19 pandemic highlights need for branded calling
  • Tier-1 carriers continue to be a small part of the problem
  • Robocallers are crossing over to robotexts
  • VoIP originated calls are the largest portion of unwanted
  • Wireline phone numbers overlooked as robocaller target, while much of the attention is focused on robocalls to mobile numbers

The eighth edition of the TNS Robocall Investigation Report includes a deep analysis of where robocalls are made and by whom, a look at the newest robocall scams, a deep dive into robotexting, exciting details on the best industry solutions, and much more.

To download the report click here.

Click below to request our recent Robocall Report

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Robocall Scam of the Month

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Robocall Scam Highlight

Fraudsters Use New Tricks When You List

Spring cleaning has arrived and the untouched roller skates that have been collecting dust in your garage for a year need to go. You list them on Facebook Marketplace in the hopes for some spending money. Next, you receive a message from an unknown neighbor who will pick them up today and give you cold, hard cash, if they can just send a six-digit code to your phone to verify you are a legitimate seller. Better safe than sorry, right?

Wrong. A new scam has surfaced where fraudsters attempt to set up online accounts and run other schemes using their victim’s identity. They have been specifically using Google Voice which produces a virtual phone number that allows texts, calls, and voicemails to be sent via the internet. They will pretend to be concerned that your listing is the scam, which may trick some unexpecting victims into giving them their information.

This scam targets those who post an item for sale, a lost pet, or a lost belonging such as a wallet online. This type of listing can easily be found on Facebook and other social websites like Nextdoor. The scammer will contact the poster with concern that their listing may be fraudulent and ask if they can send a code to your phone number that will verify that the posting is real. What is really happening is the scammer is creating a Google Voice account in your name with your phone number and will use that account to do numerous other scams. They could even gain access to your Google and Gmail accounts.

Most websites and apps that allow for reselling usually have their own instant messaging capabilities that would prevent the need to share your personal phone number or email address. The best way to protect yourself from this scam and others is by keeping your information private online and never agreeing to an unsolicited request for a verification code.

If you believe you are the victim of a Google Voice scam, you can report it to your local police, state Attorney General’s office and the FTC. You can also report buyers on Facebook Marketplace, as well as ‘neighbors’ on Nextdoor. Google has an online page with advice on how you can avoid and report Google related scams.

Call-blocking apps, including those powered by TNS Call Guardian®, are also a great resource for reporting and blocking unwanted robocalls. Stay vigilant and share information about scams with others.

Call Guardian is a registered trademark of Transaction Network Services, Inc.

Past Scams of the Month

Scams involving taxes are ripe this time of year as fraudsters ramp up their efforts by impersonating the IRS. Various forms of tax scams exist, and fraudsters may contact their victims via email, social media, and texts or phone calls. It is important to know that the IRS will never initiate contact consumers via email, texts or social media to request information such as bank account information, credit card numbers or passwords. IRS tax scams are spiking ahead of tax day, driven in part by the information vacuum created when the IRS suspended some taxpayer notices three days into tax season.

Scammers may use a threatening approach, demanding taxes to be paid immediately by gift card or wire transfer. They may claim the victim will be arrested or deported if they do not pay up. In addition, scammers may use a more detailed approach to make the victim believe they really are the IRS. The IRS provides tools to use when you receive tax fraud attempts or are a victim of one of these scams. You can report IRS-related phishing attempts and fraud to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484. Call-blocking apps, including those powered by TNS Call Guardian®, are also a great resource for reporting and blocking unwanted robocalls.

Student loan scams have been around for a long time, but fraudsters continue to tweak their techniques to become more topical and realistic. Some scammers use an interactive voice response system to find people who will answer the call and interact with them. If the potential victim responds yes, they would likely receive a text with a link, or be transferred to a live agent who may try to obtain their credit card and other information. To someone unaware of these scams and looking for help with student loan debt, this call may seem like a huge relief.

If you need student loan forgiveness or refinancing, contact the source of your loan directly. If they or another company reaches out to you offering support, this is a red flag, and you should contact them directly to ensure the legitimacy of their message. Other red flags include asking for a fee or upfront payment, asking for your loan account log in, and immediate loan forgiveness. You should also never give your personal information over the phone. Legitimate companies and student loan forgiveness programs exist, although it can be confusing to tell the difference. Luckily, legitimate companies are easy to identify with simple online searches. It is best to reach out to these companies and programs directly if you believe something may be a scam. You can also report student loan scams to the FTC. Call-blocking apps, including those powered by TNS Call Guardian®, are also a great resource for reporting and blocking unwanted robocalls.

Scams that impersonate utility companies have been around for a long time and become increasingly sophisticated every year. A recent attack has surfaced where the scammer knew the exact amount of the customer’s last bill. They call pretending to be the utility company and claim the last payment did not go through and was denied. The scammer will usually threaten to shut off the power that day if they’re not paid. The other tactic employed is a recorded call with a similar threat, but lists a telephone number to call back that will connect you to a live person. A threatening call like this is a major red flag since most utility companies do not do business this way. The best way to identify whether a call like this is legitimate is to call your utility company directly and they can tell you the current standing of your account. If you feel you are in real danger of your power getting shut off because of delinquent payments, be aware that utility companies will send many warnings before they shut down service.

Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) is a consortium of more than 130 US and Canadian electric, water, and natural gas utilities (and their respective trade associations) dedicated to combating impostor utility scams by providing a forum for utilities and trade associations to share data and best practices. If you do receive a call impersonating your utility company, notify them to make them aware as they can send out a notice to warn other customers. As with all robocalls, you can report these calls to your local police, state Attorney General’s office and the FTC. Call-blocking apps, including those powered by TNS Call Guardian®, are also a great resource for reporting and blocking unwanted robocalls.

With COVID-19 cases surging, there has been high demand for tests, leaving shortages across the US. This has opened a door for scammers looking to take advantage of those desperate for a test that would allow them to travel or visit loved ones. TNS data scientists have identified numerous calls claiming to be selling at-home test kits. The scam is simple: the fraudster will ask for your credit card information in exchange for an at-home kit. Now, you may receive a kit – but it will most likely be fake, or you will never receive the kit at all.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a list of antigen diagnostic tests and molecular diagnostic tests that have been authorized and are safe to use. Also, only buy the test from trusted sellers online or in person. In addition to calls, there are websites being created that are selling the fake kits as well. You can search for a company through the Better Business Bureau to see if they have good reviews or complaints. If you do find fraudulent test kits, you can report them to the FDA by contacting this email address. As with all phone scams, stay alert for red flags and never give personal information over the phone. Call-blocking apps, including those powered by TNS Call Guardian®, are also a great resource for reporting and blocking unwanted robocalls.

A robocall scam, designed to collect cash, has recently been identified that is targeting those with a love for rescue animals. The scammer may claim there is a waiting list for the animal and ask you to put down a refundable deposit, which they will not give back. They may also claim you need to pay for vet bills such as vaccinations and surgeries before the adoption can go through. The seller may offer the pet at a discounted rate. The darkest scammers may threaten to euthanize the animal if you do not pay the fees. IPATA shows other ways that scammers may try to lure you in beyond robocalling.

If you are working with an individual who needs to rehome their pet, do not pay them for anything until you meet the animal in person. The best place to meet is in a public, open space such as a park. Be cautious as scammers will have most likely have taken photos of animals from the internet to add to their phony listing. Reverse image search is a great tool to determine whether a pet adoption is legitimate. Look up the images of the animal and see if they can be found online. It’s also important to remember that when a pet is up for adoption, the shelter or previous owner wants to confirm it is going to a loving and caring home. They should ask lots of questions about your lifestyle, financial and housing situation, and experience with animals. If the seller is not asking questions like these, that is a red flag for a scam.

A scam has surfaced around the Child Tax Credit being offered by the IRS as part of the American Rescue Plan. This monthly payment offers $3,600 a year for children under six years old and $3,000 a year for children over that age. To identify eligible recipients the IRS advised it would use previously filed taxes to automatically enroll families raising children or, for those that had not filed before, they invited non-filers to sign up by November 15. Scammers saw this as an opportunity to use to their advantage.

The IRS process for eligible recipients for checking your status is via a Child Tax Credit Update Portal. The IRS will never contact anyone via text message, social media channels or phone call to request personal or financial information. However, as the November deadline approached, scammers sent increasing numbers of robocalls and robotexts attempting to bait information from unwitting victims. Typical scams included those that claimed they could help get families receive the tax credit after the deadline passed. These scammers asked individuals to fill out fake eligibility forms or led them to a fake IRS website to claim their tax credit. An unsuspecting American may easily fall for a call from the IRS offering monthly payments, especially if they need support.

A recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandate has required carriers to install the STIR (Secure Telephone Identity Revisited)/SHAKEN (Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs) call authentication technology in the IP portions of their network. While this has helped combat anonymous spoofing of telephone numbers, scammers are finding other ways to fill their pockets and text scams, also known as “smishing” – SMS phishing – are becoming increasingly popular among fraudsters.

Car insurance scams have been a long time robocall scheme that is now common in SMS messaging. The scammers responsible are typically after one of two things. Either they are attempting to sell a car insurance bundle that is unbelievably cheap and ultimately a scam, or they are after personal information including social security, credit card number, and bank account information.

There are various ways to stop or report unwanted text messages. Suspicious text messages can be reported or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at their fraud reporting website. or forwarded to 7726 (SPAM). Forwarding the message to 7726 is a process major carriers have adopted and is backed by the GSMA, a global association of mobile communications entities.

A common scam is resurfacing as the federal student loan forbearance will end in just a few months, on January 31, 2022. Student loan forgiveness scams prey on adults with crushing student loan debt.

For some, the coronavirus pandemic may have affected their employment status and paying back heavy student loans may feel impossible right now. There is also a lot of confusion happening around student loan policy, creating the perfect environment for scammers.

This is a transcript of what a fraudulent scam forgiveness call may sound like:

“Hi, this is (name) from student loans support. We wanted to remind you that your temporary hardship forbearance will be ending January 31, 2022, and to be aware your loans will resume automatically at the standard repayment rate. Our records indicate you are eligible for student loan forgiveness programs but never completed the required documents. If you want to proceed with the applications, please call us today at xxx-xxx-xxxx.” 

These scam calls will likely be a robocall or a recorded message and will ask you to call a different number to reach a live agent. The company typically uses a very generic name, such as “loan support” or no name at all. When the victim makes the call to the given number, they are asked for a fee which needs to be paid there and then with a credit card. This is not the process when refinancing or applying for student loan forgiveness. It is best to hang up immediately if they ask for personal information.

Treat loan forgiveness or refinancing seriously and, as with all financial decisions, before going forward make sure to do your research on the company. You will be putting yourself at high risk of identity theft if you follow along with the scammers prompt without doing any research on who they are.

Legitimate companies and student loan forgiveness programs exist, although it may feel confusing to tell the difference. Luckily, legitimate companies are easy to identify with simple online searches. It is best to reach out to these companies and programs directly if you believe something may be a scam. If you’re in default on your federal student loan, please follow the instructions on the Federal Student Aid website

Stay vigilant and share information about scams with others. Always be extra suspicious of unsolicited phone calls, texts and email to avoid being taken advantage of by bad actors.

If you receive a call or text which you believe to be from a scammer, report it via the FCC website or your state Attorney General website to help combat this activity. In addition, consumers can protect themselves by leveraging robocall detection solutions powered by TNS Call Guardian®. In these trying times, vigilance is even more important than before; be smart and stay safe.

Call Guardian is a registered trademark of Transaction Network Services, Inc.

Everyone loves receiving packages, especially surprises. Although, some unexpected parcels may have darker intentions than Aunt Cindy sending you belated birthday socks. TNS recently identified a text scam involving unanticipated mail which attempts to directly charge your bank account. The scam is sent through text message and includes a shortened link to a suspicious website that will ask you to pay the shipping on the package and try to sell you extra services included with a 14-day free trial.

Sometimes the messenger may claim to be a major carrier such as Amazon, FedEx, USPS, or UPS, in an attempt to gain credibility. But, as one could expect from a classic scam, credit card information is required before the trial can begin. After the trial period, they will charge around $100 monthly without providing any services. These payments are intended to go unnoticed by the victim of the scam, putting money directly into the pocket of the criminal.

It is important to remain alert and be suspicious of unwarranted messages, even if they appear to be from a reliable source such a major mail carrier. It is safest to contact the carrier directly to double check. Never click a link provided by an unknown source through text or email, as simply opening the link may welcome dangerous viruses.

TNS has discovered a scam that is targeting people looking to retire and make money fast to fuel this move. We have identified a call from “Mary”, a seemingly innocent and kind individual who asks if you want to know how her husband makes $10,000 a month by just sitting on their couch. What a great opportunity! But alas, the only person getting rich from this call is Mary.

Our data analytics recorded the bad actors behind this scheme placing hundreds of thousands of calls in a single week. If the called party followed their prompt, they were led to a suspicious website that asked for contact information. The website appears to be an attempt to lure victims into a similar scheme to the classic “get rich quick” scam. We investigated and found that after filling in the requested info, the site leads into a promotional video. There is also a price guide, which explains the various levels you can purchase and how much your “return” on sales will be, which they claim to be up to 75%.

Unfortunately, while we know this is clearly phony – any legitimate company will not ask employees to buy their way in – many innocent people across the US may not and are at risk of being snared by these criminals. It only takes an unlucky few to make these scammers wealthy and encourage them to perpetuate the scam. If a company is asking you to pay fees to start selling their products, take this as a red flag.

The buzz around cryptocurrency these days has never been greater, however, many people are unfamiliar with how it works making them rich pickings for scammers. Scammers have, unsurprisingly adapted their techniques and have taken advantage of this topical theme with the naivete around these digital coins. TNS is tracking several different tactics used by robocallers which involve unsolicited offers of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies; some spoof legitimate cryptocurrency services, while another sees a legitimate phone number belonging to a popular Bitcoin ATM service being spoofed by scammers running a Bitcoin scheme.

In the Bitcoin ATM approach, the scammers claimed the account had been compromised and the subscriber’s Bitcoin was at stake. It is important to remember never to give the bad actors access to your machines, passwords or send them money. If you are uncertain that it is the actual company holding your cryptocurrency, hang up, look up the number of the legitimate company and call them directly.

Scammers may also use the classic “get rich quick” scheme, claiming you can make quick profits by selling Bitcoin from your couch. These are all attempts at either stealing money or obtaining personal information, so hang up immediately if you receive any unsolicited calls of these kind.

TNS has identified a recent increase in the number of bad actors performing a scam based on “we buy houses”. Whether the approach is simply opportunistic or carefully orchestrated is unclear. The caller may just be autodialing to see who they can catch, or they may have done research to find houses for sale or property owners in up-and-coming neighborhoods. The latter most likely have not considered selling but may not be able to resist a good offer.

The scammer begins by asking what kind of property you own and if you are interested in selling it, attempting to make the call sound legitimate. Then they will make a bogus offer, possibly one you cannot refuse. The catch – there is an “administrative fee” which, after being paid, results in the bad actor riding off into the sunset. Legitimate buyers would not ask for a fee to paid on the initial offer, so if this happens, hang up immediately. If you receive a call which you believe to be from a scammer, report it via the FCC website or your state Attorney General website to help combat this activity.

TNS has found fake fundraising for police and firefighters as a top scam operating today. These fraudsters may pose as a legitimate charity, make up a fake organization name that sounds trustworthy or even create a registered charity but misuse funding. Having the word “police” or “firefighters” in a charity’s name does not unfortunately confirm any of the money raised is benefiting these groups or that police and firefighters are even a part of them, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Donations are a great way to support causes you hold close to your heart, but scammers are notoriously good at tricking those who are passionate about an issue and want to help through funding, so it is important to be very cautious when making donations. Some legitimate non-profit organizations have confirmed they do not solicit donations over the phone. For example, the National Police Foundation does not solicit donations from anyone via phone, according to their website. There is no safe way to confirm the identity of the caller, so never give your credit card, address or other personal information over the phone.

The best approach is to make sure the organization you want to support does not have ill intentions through research. Visiting the IRS website can confirm if the company is a legitimate, tax exempt charity. The website Charity Navigator is a great tool to use when checking the usage of funds for all legitimate charities. These websites give charities a rating based on how they are using donations and break down where the money is really going. You can also directly call your police or fire station and confirm if the organization calling is really working with them.

Amazon is a household name in America and has accumulated over 150 million subscribers. Scammers have been using its popularity to defraud shoppers through phone calls, text messages, and emails for several years now. With the pandemic seeing increased levels of home deliveries, it is important to recap the leading Amazon scams currently in play.

Suspicious Activity – Scammers use a warning of suspicious activity to gain access to users’ personal information.

Suspended Account– Fraudsters may claim your Amazon account is suspended due to fraudulent activity which can be fixed by clicking a link or downloading an app.

Free Prizes – These often include Apple Air pods, laptops, and raffle tickets and scammers will ask for your Amazon or bank account information to confirm your win.

As we become more accustomed to screening the barrage of scam calls today, it is easy to assume a call is unwanted when it is coming from an unheard-of city, hundreds of miles away. But sometimes, we receive calls from our own area code that leave us wondering… “Is my family in need of help calling from a number I don’t recognize?” Only to answer and hear the classic “Hi, this is John and I’m calling about your car’s extended warranty”.

This is a technique very often used by robocallers with bad intentions, called neighborhood spoofing. The premise is quite simple: since the call is coming from somewhere local, scammers hope we assume the call is legitimate. Victims often lower their guard when the number displayed has the same area code or even the same first six digits as their own phone number. Neighborhood spoofing is a technique used by criminals running various types of spams and scams, including but not limited to auto warranty offers, social security scams and Medicare scams. This activity is usually illegal and unwanted. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled under the Truth-in-Caller ID Act to prohibit anyone from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongly obtain anything of value. As a result, illegal spoofing can now draw fines of up to $10,000 for each violation.

Just as fashions fall in and out of favor, robocall scams are often seen taking on a cyclical nature as they find new victims each year. In 2021 we are lamenting the return of the car warranties scam which, despite many subscribers now being wise to this, is still proving profitable for the unscrupulous.

Luckily, most people recognize this as a scam as it has been going around for years. Others aren’t so lucky and fall for the scammer’s manipulative tactics. Victims typically receive multiple calls warning that their car warranty is about to expire either today or soon. The caller offers to take immediate payment to extend the warranty or buy a phony insurance service, to gain your credit card, bank account, and other personally identifiable information. They will likely use the name of a reputable company and the make, model, and year of your car to sound legitimate. We are observing that these scam artists are becoming more tech savvy and now are using near-neighborhood spoofing. This means the call appears to come from an unknown number with an area code from the city or state you live in.

Wangiri is the Japanese word for “one-ring and drop”, and it is also the name given to a scam that is creating a stir in the robocall world. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) issued an order at the end of November on one-ring scams. The order permits voice service providers to block all calls from telephone numbers that are “highly likely” to be associated with one-ring scams identified by  applications like TNS Call Guardian. The FCC also established a safe harbor for inadvertent blocking of lawful calls if identified by reasonable analytics as potential one-ring scam calls. Opt-out is not required for blocking of these calls.

How it Works

You will receive a call, or multiple calls, from an unknown number. This number will likely be international, but will look like it comes from a telephone number within the United States. It could also come from a spoofed line, which means the call might appear to be coming from the US or your area code, but it is really someone placing a call from another country. The phone will ring once and then the call ends. And again. And again – over several days. This may pique your curiosity, and you will be tempted to call back. This is the goal of the wangiri scam – to get a call back from you. This is how scammers make money; a call back charges you international calling fees because you returned the call. To keep you on the phone, bad actors will use all kinds of tricks. The longer they can keep you on the phone, the more you will be charged, and the more money they can make.

As 2020 ended, we saw a rise in robocalls mentioning Medicare and health insurance with open enrollment occurring at this time of the year. Obtaining and maintaining health insurance can be a confusing process for some, making it a lucrative scam opportunity for fraudsters. A fraudulent call will take the format of a “patient advocate for Medicare” asking questions, specifically looking for your social security number or banking information. Callers may become aggressive and repeatedly call until they receive the information they are phishing for. The scam artist may use some easily attainable information such as your name or address to make the call appear legitimate. They will claim they need your information for a variety of reasons like to send you a new card, to update your benefits, or to prevent your plan from being canceled. They may even ask you to mail in your old card.

According to the official Medicare website, you would only receive a call from a health or drug plan that you are already a member of and customer service representative calls may be identified on your display as from 1-800-MEDICARE. Although, be aware of spoofing, as legitimate government agency numbers can and are often spoofed. If you receive a call from 1-800-MEDICARE and think it’s suspicious, hang up and call the number directly to speak to a legitimate representative and confirm if they called you.

We receive text messages all day from friends, family, and coworkers. Text messaging provides a quicker way to communicate than email or calls. Unfortunately, it also provides an outlet for scammers and we are seeing ‘robotexts’ become a growing problem. Some also call this “Smishing” or “SMS phishing”.

Some of the text message scams we’ve seen are based on common phone or email scams, however, the scammer is not trying to have a text conversation, but rather wants to convince you to click a link by using a topical current event that seems reasonable or enticing you with a free prize. The goals of these scams are for you to enter your personal information through the link. They will then use this information for various possible reasons, including access to your bank accounts or selling the information to other scammers. Here some of the many various SMS scams reported recently.

  • Mail notifications
  • Free products
  • Cash offers
  • Political donations
  • Research project scams
  • Driver’s license scams
  • Business ventures
  • Credit Scores

As Election day approached common voting scams via phone calls increased. Here’s some insights into what we saw. 

Voter Registration – Nowhere in the United States can you register to vote over the phone, but scammers preyed on people who didn’t know this information or were unaware of the election process. In a voter registration phishing attack, scammers may claim you are not registered, but you can register with them over the phone or suggest you are unable to vote because your registration is incomplete.

Cash Donations – Scammers impersonate or spoof legitimate political campaigns to gain your credit card information. Unfortunately, donating money to a phony campaign is typically an irreversible action. In many campaigns, audio of the candidate asking for donations is used for commercials and legitimate phone calls. Scammers will use these recordings making it difficult to identify the real campaign calls versus fake ones.

Surveys and Prizes – In political surveys you may be asked who you plan to vote for and demographic information. Don’t offer personal information such as your driver’s license number or social security number (SSN). Political surveys wouldn’t need that information about you to collect voting data. Some scammers also offer prizes if you take their survey. Campaigns rarely give prizes or will ask for your credit card number after a survey.

Many cities, counties, and states across the US are participating in contact tracing to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Legitimate contact tracing is run through your health department. The main purposes for calling are to notify those who may have been exposed to monitor their health, assist in finding a testing center, and asking those to self-quarantine. Their staff may ask you to verify information such as your date of birth and address, especially if you are the COVID-19 positive patient. They may also ask you the address of a testing center you visited if you were recently tested. Listed below is what they will not ask you for:

  • Credit/debit card information
  • Bank account information
  • Social security number
  • Immigration status
  • Money in any form

Scam contact tracing calls often begin with a warning that you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 and you must self-isolate and take a test. They will make this sound urgent by claiming you must take the test within 24-72 hours. Next, they will ask for your mailing address and a payment card. The caller may even claim there are penalties for not complying. The threatening tone of the call and the request for payment raises a red flag and identifies this call as a scam.

The pandemic has become an important tool for scammers that they are using to their advantage. Since they first started surfacing in March 2020, TNS has seen new scams pop up and old scams mutate to fit the evolving COVID-19 narrative. Here are some insights into the latest tactics bad actors are deploying.

  • Health Insurance and Hospitals – Scammers are spoofing hospitals. Many victims have reported panicking because they think they are getting an emergency call, only to receive a telemarketing pitch for fake health insurance.
  • Department of Health Contact Tracing – Scammers have used this initiative to obtain personal information by claiming to be the state’s health department or spoofing the health department lines.
  • Financial Scams – These include student loan forgiveness and scammers posing as the Small Business Association (SBA) and offering loans to business owners.
  • Stimulus Checks – Like banks, the IRS does NOT make calls to confirm your banking information. They will not charge you a fee to deposit a stimulus payment into your account and they will not email you.

TNS is working hard to ensure that the phone numbers belonging to entities sending coronavirus related alerts are reaching those who are depending on them. These entities include hospitals, healthcare providers, State and local health officials, and other government officials. Everyone should be wary of calls or texts coming from unknown numbers claiming to be one of these entities. You can confirm if a hospital or government call is legitimate by simply going to their website and seeing if the telephone number matches

Auto insurance is becoming an increasingly popular phone scam. Luckily, this scam is easy to identify as robocallers try to tempt victims with unrealistic rates on their car insurance which appear just too good to be true.

The scammer will often not give an exact number and, once determining interest, then transfers the victim to a representative or automated message which asks for personal information, such as zip code and address, current insurance plan, and household details. The bad actor is trying to get your valuable personal information for identity theft. The last thing you want to do is give personal information such as your address, birth date, Social Security number or bank account information.

Another way to avoid these scams is to remember that insurance companies will not reach out to you unless you have been actively searching for insurance. For example, you may have submitted an inquiry on their website looking for new insurance. Legitimate car insurance companies do not spend time calling random phone numbers because these are bad and inefficient calling practices. These calls can come from any state and often the “representative” will claim they are working with well-known car insurance agencies to sound legitimate and trustworthy. One such company goes by the name of Car Insurance Association. Don’t fall for their antics, ask for the agent’s state insurance license number. If you suspect you have received one of these calls, hang up and report the call to your state’s Department of Insurance, the FTC and website.

It is 101 degrees outside and you just received a call from your energy provider threatening to cut-off your power, meaning your air conditioning, in 30 minutes if you do not make a payment immediately. Your first reaction is a surge of panic; you are certain that you paid the bill last month but you don’t have much time to think before they shut off the power, so you scramble for your wallet.

Scammers typically use the phone numbers published on utility provider websites to make the calls more convincing and deploy one of these techniques:

  • Claim your bill is past due or that your check bounced
  • Claim you overpaid on your last bill and ask for a bank account number or credit card number to “refund” you
  • In neighborhoods with a power outage, scammers might offer to turn on your power for a fee (only the utility company can turn the power back on)
  • Offer a reduction, discount or rebate on your bill

There are many courses of action to take when targeted by a utility scam artist: First, never give them any personal identifiable information, financial or other sensitive data. Hang up the phone and check your online account for up-to-date information about your bill. Second, don’t agree to send cash, wire money or provide credit card information without ensuring the legitimacy of the recipient. Third, you can report the call to the Attorney General hotline for your state, the FTC or visit the website.

In this time of uncertainty, we need to be extra suspicious of unknown phone numbers because not even a pandemic will stop scammers. They work fast and we have seen numerous schemes pop up surrounding COVID-19. Here are just a few: medical supply and home test kits, student loan forgiveness, health insurance and nursing school offers.

TNS is working hard to ensure all legitimate phone numbers belonging to entities sending Coronavirus related alerts are reaching those who are depending on them. These entities include hospitals, healthcare providers, state and local health officials, and other government officials

Everyone should be wary of calls or texts coming from unknown numbers claiming to be one of the entities listed above. You can confirm if a hospital or government call is legitimate by simply going to their website and seeing if the number matches.

Over 90% of households in America own a car, so it’s no wonder that one of the most common scams we see is related to auto warranties. The call is almost always a recorded message instead of a live call. The interactive voice recordings sound convincingly real making it easy to assume you are talking with an actual human.

Bad actors use automatic telephone dialing systems that have the capacity to dial a very high volume without human intervention. Many people receive these calls every day and some have reported to us that they are receiving as many as 10 unwanted calls a day pitching auto warranties. The worst part is that scammers call from so many numbers that by the time subscribers are done blocking one number, several other telephone numbers that look similar will pop up on their screen.

Press play below to listen to Robocall

This scam claims the caller will charge $299 from your checking account for a subscription renewal unless you call a provided phone number to cancel the subscription. They often identify themselves as “the accounting department”, Microsoft, or Amazon. They also may ask for a different monetary amount- but $299 is standard for this scheme. Reports show these scammers are relentless- calling the same person multiple times in a day, or repeatedly for a few days. They will call from various phone numbers, many of which are spoofed. When you block one, they call from another.
Their intention is to gain remote control access to your computer and steal personal information like credit cards, SSN, and addresses. The scammers use programs like LogMeIn and Team Viewer to gain access to the victim’s computer. In a similar scam, someone calls you and claims you are owed a refund for computer software and they just need to confirm your card number to process the transaction. Sweet! Free money, right? Yes, for the scammer who just got your credit card information!

Each year during the open enrollment period, we see an increase in related phone scams. Some attempt to sell faulty insurance plans, while others pose as insurance companies to gain details for phishing attacks. This year, many scammers are claiming to be from by spoofing the government agency’s telephone numbers. While does make periodic calls of reminders and deadlines, many spoofers are also taking advantage of their numbers.

Another government health program being impersonated is Medicare. In December, we saw over 100,000 calls with the message “very important Medicare notification from Medicare plus card”. There actually is a company called Medicare Plus Card – they provide discounts on health services such as vision and dental – but this company is not affiliated with the US government. Scammers are using both Medicare and the Medicare plus card to make scam calls.

As the national student loan debt increases, the number of phone scammers offering student loan forgiveness increases. These calls have become one of the most common phone scams and, like most, it is just too good to be true.

With this scam some are using more intimidating techniques while others are softer. Many callers claim to be agents and say there is a lawsuit regarding the receiver’s student loans. Others may claim to be from the Student Loan Health Center, but there is not an organization under the name Student Loan Health Center. Scammers attempt to sound real by mentioning the US Government, lawsuits, or fake organizations.

Scammers will use a real person recording or live caller along with a reference number to sound more legitimate. Harassing calls can also scare the call receiver to believe it is real.

Press play below to listen to Robocall

As one of the largest corporations in the U.S., it’s no surprise that Amazon has been targeted by bad actors. The telephone number, 206-922-0193, is often used by Amazon’s drivers to make delivery calls and is one that bad actors have taken advantage of by spoofing the telephone number. Our crowd-source feedback shows many reported this caller ID to be a good, trustworthy number from Amazon. However, bad actors also spoof this number for nefarious reasons. TNS has received crowd-source feedback reporting phishing attempts, threatening calls, and daily harassing calls. The feedback shows these bad actors are illegally spoofing the telephone number, acting as Amazon and asking for personal information such as billing details.
Amazon is not the one placing these unwanted calls – spoofing is out of their control. An Amazon driver will not ask you for personal information. A good FCC tip to follow is never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious. The best thing you can do is report it online and file a complaint with the FCC and FTC. You could also save the number to your contacts and only answer the call when you are expecting an Amazon package. If you have an Amazon Hub Counter near you, have your packages dropped off at a local store near you. Click here to find a Counter near you.

With over 250 retail locations in the United States most, if not all, of Apple’s store numbers have been impersonated over the phone by spoofers at some point. When you call their stores, a bot may even warn you of the spoof calls. This style of scam is particularly convincing as the caller ID on the receiver’s phone will appear known, but the person on the other end is not who they were expecting. Business numbers are an easy target for spoofers because their customer support numbers are listed on the internet. The receiver can do a quick search of the number, and it will show up as a known company – making the call seem trustworthy.

While Apple is aware of the problem, the calls may sound legitimate to mobile users. The caller will claim to be Apple Support saying the receiver’s iCloud has been breached. The receiver is then given a number to call, one that is not related to Apple. The spoofers will not hesitate to harass the receiver. The nature of the call is a very basic phishing attempt – except it is coming from a reliable number making it more believable to the receiver than a typical phishing attempt.

Press play below to listen to Robocall

Last summer, robocall scammers bombarded U.S. cities with heavy Chinese immigrant populations such as New York City and San Francisco. The robocalls – in Mandarin – purported to come from the Chinese Consulate and directed the recipient to call the Beijing Police Department about financial crimes in China they were being investigated for. Even the New York Police Department was not spared from the scam, as numerous officers received the calls themselves in addition to responding to frantic questions from Mandarin-speaking residents across the city. The scam made a comeback a few months ago, with over 6,200 crowd-source reports this year and many, many more unreported cases.

How does the ploy work? According to the FTC, bad actors are making calls in Mandarin explaining that the person on the receiving end needs to pick up a package at the Chinese Consulate. The caller usually follows with an assertion that their U.S. status is at stake and a request for bank or credit card information. Because they cast a wide net, many non-Mandarin speakers are being targeted as well. For them, it’s just an annoying call, but for Chinese people they do manage to contact, panic and confusion often ensue.

Social security scams are extremely popular at the current time. These typically see a criminal impersonating the Social Security Agency and warning concerned victims that their social security number has been suspended because of suspicious activity.

The operative reassures the victim that this can be resolved if they can simply confirm their information, which if they do is most likely to then be misused and a variety of fraud follow. With your social security benefits in jeopardy, many panic for fear of losing what could be a vital form of income, clouding their normal good judgement.

To protect against this scam always remember that government employees will not threaten to take away benefits or ask for money or personal information.

Press play below to listen to Robocall

Charity and fundraising scams remain popular with robocall bad actors, and recently TNS tracked a surge in robocall scammers (especially in the Denver, Atlanta and Boise markets) purporting to be collecting donations for police officers, veterans and firefighters.

The bad actor preys on victims that assume no one would sink this low to acquire your money or financial account information. Of course, the reality is quite the contrary. Scammers also try and use a similar-sounding name to a real serviceperson organization or charity, expecting that many callers won’t notice the difference.

Telltale signs the call is a scam include the volume of calls you’ve received from this number and when you’ve received them.

Many spam calls have been coming from a woman named Ashley who claims to work for Drive for Cash. Ashley’s robotic voice and repeated phrases give away that she is an interactive voice response bot, but she does sound convincingly human. Her calls begin with: “I’m with drive for cash, a recruiter that’s hiring drivers in your area. You can easily make up to $20 an hour and you’ll get a $500 bonus after your 100th drive. You also get paid daily so you’re not waiting for a weekly paycheck. I have just a couple of quick questions to see if you qualify.”

Ashley proceeds to ask me about my vehicle, insurance, and age. She then told me:

“Now the way it works, you’ll have an account set up with Lyft, and you turn it on when you want to work. They’ll notify you when someone would like to get picked up. I already have you prequalified for everything, however it’s not my position to get into the details and setup for Lyft.”

A Lyft customer support employee said that they do not reach out to riders or drivers by phone, nor are they associated with anyone claiming to be Drive for Cash. After researching Drive for Cash, there is no company currently operating under this name.

In the past, Ashley has been an “employment specialist”. She has also claimed to be an “academic advisor”. Just as her current position at “Drive for Cash”, these were just phishing attempts. Beware of robocallers named Ashley and phishing scams disguised as driving job
offers, even if a legitimate business such as Lyft if mentioned.

Our phone rings once and the call stops. The bad actor on the other end hopes you call the number back to see who it was or what it was about. As soon as you do, you’ll hear a recorded message that is intended to keep you on the phone, or worse, to get you to call back a second time.

Every time you call, you will be charged high international rates or other connection fees. The bad actor making those calls gets all or part of those fees.

These scams are also known as “Wangari,” which comes from Japan where the scam originated years ago and means one-ring-and-cut.

Some things sound too good to be true. What about calls from a magical salesman offering a job that pays $10,000 a week – at home in your pajamas? Is it real? Most likely, no.

Often, the caller says repeatedly that you will make money but we never find out who they are, a job description, or even a business name. After 10 minutes the unnamed caller finally directs you to a mobile website. These calls are more of a phishing attempt than a job offer.

Never trust calls like these. Legitimate jobs, including work from home careers, will not cold-call you and can be found on trustworthy company websites and hiring websites.

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