TNS estimates that more than 78.3 billion unwanted calls were made in the last 12 months representing a 9% decrease over the last 12 months versus the previous 12 months. Unwanted calls decreased from the month before to 5.5B, a 9% decrease from April to May and a 34% increase from May 2020.
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.
Top 10 Area Codes for Generating Unwanted Calls - May 2021
Top 10 Area Codes for Generating Unwanted Calls - April 2021
Top 10 Area Codes for Generating Unwanted Calls - May 2020
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.
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.
Details of your local TNS representative can be found on our contact page
Home Buyer Scams Come with High Asking Price
Real estate investors are looking for desirable properties at a low price, but beware — some will take undesirable measures to find a good deal. We have all seen the “we buy houses” signs on the roadside. Maybe you have received cold calls with offers to buy your home. These are not considered best practice in the real estate world, as these will usually be lowball offers, but are technically legal and legitimate. Now, fraudsters are increasingly finding ways to spin this concept into a real scam.
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 are selling your house, make sure to work with trustworthy professionals and be on the lookout for real estate scams. A bad actor may be too eager to buy the house sight unseen. Never give out your personal information or pay unwarranted fees over the phone, as it is most likely a scam. The FBI reported in its 2020 Internet Crime Report that more than $213 million was lost to real estate and rental fraud that year.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 www.reportarobocall.com 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:
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 www.reportarobocall.com 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 HealthCare.gov by spoofing the government agency’s telephone numbers. While HealthCare.gov 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.