In 2023, Americans received billions of unwanted robocalls. The ramifications of these unwanted calls are severe – 68% of Americans now refuse to answer calls from unknown numbers. New technologies and the nimble adaptability of bad actors created significant challenges for all telecom industry stakeholders this past year. However, amid the chaos, carriers and technology providers rallied their forces to help restore trust in the voice channel by developing and deploying innovative solutions to turn the tables on scammers and spoofers.
Top Scams of 2023
2023 demonstrated the time-proven ability of bad actors to adopt the latest technologies, such as AI voice cloning, to robocall campaigns and lean into timely trends to sow confusion among Americans. Here are the most prominent robocall scams bad actors deployed over the last 12 months.
Tax Scams: From the start of 2023 through Tax Filing Day in April, robocall bad actors launched numerous tax-related scam campaigns. The most common attacks included bad actors posing as the IRS, the ‘ghost’ tax preparer scam or bad actors calling Americans and offering them unpaid taxes or tax debt relief. During the first three months of the year, Americans received more than 10 million tax-related robocall scams.
Student Loan Scams: With the resumption of federal student loan payments, scammers shifted their focus to exploit the vulnerability of students and recent graduates by offering fake student loan forgiveness. Americans received nearly as many student loan robocalls (350,000) in the first two weeks of the 2023-2024 school year as they did in the prior three months combined.
Medicare Open Enrollment Scams: With the end of the year approaching, scammers set their sights on the Medicare open enrollment period. Bad actors unleashed a barrage of deceptive calls, exploiting the confusion surrounding healthcare choices and policy-level changes. Posing as Medicare representatives offering supplemental coverage or additional benefits, scammers targeted unsuspecting individuals navigating the complex healthcare industry landscape.
AI Scams: In 2023, AI-generated voice-cloning scams emerged as a significant threat. Fraudsters demonstrated capabilities using AI to replicate voices with remarkable accuracy, often pretending to be a distressed family member pleading for money, with one being coined a revamp of the ‘imposter grandchild’ scam. This new tactic has Americans nervous – two-thirds of US adults are now concerned about AI-generated deep fake robocalls that mimic the voice of a loved one to scam them out of money.
With bad actors adopting new technologies and leaning into developments dominating the news cycle, the telecom industry had to be aggressive in its preventative measures to protect subscribers.
Industry Solutions to Fight Robocall Threats
The telecom industry sought to deploy solutions to restore trust in the voice channel, protect consumers from harmful scams and bad actors and improve the subscriber experience.
From an industry perspective, the final major STIR/SHAKEN implementation date of June 30th marked a critical moment as signed traffic continued to improve. Tier-1 carriers, as highlighted in our Q3 Robocall Report, have made substantial improvements, reinforcing the industry’s commitment to combating robocall scams but there is still work to be done.
During this time, TNS has worked to deploy three critical solutions to aid enterprises, carriers and subscribers in the fight against robocalls.
First, TNS Enterprise Branded Calling continues to play a vital role in restoring trust to the voice channel following its launch in 2022. TNS spent the last 12 months extending the solution’s reach in high-touch industries that rely on the voice channel to engage with customers.
Additionally, we developed a critical add-on to TNS Enterprise Branded Calling: TNS Enterprise Authentication. The solution ensures only legitimate, branded calls from an Enterprise Authentication company are delivered to subscribers. This advanced validation and authentication measure, allows call agents to get to the reason for the call quickly, optimizing call durations and helping to boost customers’ willingness to engage, which can lead to better business outcomes for brands.
Finally, as part of TNS’ commitment to fortifying the voice channel, we recently launched our AI Labs initiative. Led by TNS Chief Data Officer, Greg Bohl, the global AI Labs team will research and develop generative, predictive and discriminative AI applications to protect subscribers from bad actors.
As we reflect on 2023 and look to 2024, one thing remains clear: bad actors will continue to refine and improve their robocall tactics. Yet, through industry collaboration and innovative solutions, TNS and telecom stakeholders remain dedicated to restoring trust in the voice channel.
To learn more about TNS’ Robocall Protection visit: tnsi.com/solutions/communications/robocall-protection/
John Haraburda is Product Lead for TNS Call Guardian® with specific responsibility for TNS’ Communications Market solutions.