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Hiya unveiled the findings of its latest study on phone fraud and spam. The research highlighted a distressing trend, with a quarter of unknown phone calls analyzed by Hiya being classified as unwanted. I feel like I get 14 scam calls a week.
The company has been actively monitoring and reporting on phone fraud and spam for several years. However, this year’s study marked included a comprehensive list of the most prevalent phone scams witnessed in 2023. Hiya believes that many of these scams involve the application of AI technology, directed by scammers to deceive unsuspecting victims.
The top phone scams of 2023
Amazon scam: Impersonators posing as representatives from Amazon contact victims, alleging unauthorized purchases or requesting credit card updates. They often initiate contact through robocalls and, if the victim falls for the scam, a live operator will attempt to extract sensitive information such as Amazon login credentials or credit card details.
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Insurance scam: Fraudsters target victims with a range of insurance-related scams, including bogus insurance policies and false claims of outstanding bills. Scammers aim to obtain personal information, such as social security or credit card numbers, during the call.
Medicare scam: Scammers attempt to acquire individuals’ Medicare numbers to fraudulently bill the government for medical services. Recent variations of this scam involve offering victims free home COVID tests, supposedly covered by Medicare.
Credit card scam: Scammers deceive victims into disclosing their credit card numbers and security codes. They employ various tactics, such as claiming a package delivery requires payment, renewing subscriptions, or posing as representatives from credit card fraud departments investigating unauthorized transactions.
Cryptocurrency scam: These scams are not limited to any specific geographic region, as Hiya users worldwide report receiving such calls. Scammers exploit people’s desire for quick profits in the cryptocurrency market, often targeting victims through phone calls, emails, or text messages. In 2022, cryptocurrency scams resulted in losses of $1.4 billion in the United States alone.
Loved ones scam: Fraudsters pose as distressed relatives, urging recipients to wire money to assist them in times of purported trouble. These scams are prevalent in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and other countries.
Payment apps scam: Scammers focus on popular peer-to-peer payment apps like Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, and CashApp. Exploiting the absence of consumer protections comparable to credit cards, fraudsters target these apps to steal money, akin to stealing cash.
The study also compared the rates of phone fraud and spam in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. The U.K. had the highest spam call rate, with 28% of unknown calls being classified as spam, followed by the U.S. at 27% and Canada at 20%. The U.K. has consistently held the highest rate of fraud calls in Europe in recent years.
Text message scams
Additionally, Hiya’s report incorporated data from KONTXT, a division of RealNetworks. The analysis of billions of text messages in the United States in August 2023 revealed that 77% of messaging fraud attempts were conducted via SMS, while 23% were sent via MMS.
The utilization of MMS allows cybercriminals to conceal messages within images, incorporate more extensive text, and adopt creative strategies to evade conventional spam detection methods. The increasing adoption of MMS for legitimate business communications further compounds the challenge of distinguishing spam and fraud from genuine use cases.
The study drew upon an analysis of 98 billion phone calls worldwide between January 1, 2023, and June 30, 2023. Hiya collected data from the Hiya Voice Security Network, encompassing Samsung Smart Call-enabled devices and the Hiya mobile app. The spam rate reported in the study represents calls flagged by Hiya as either “potential fraud” or “suspected spam.” Spam ratios indicate the number of unwanted calls from non-contacts, i.e., calls originating from numbers not stored in an individual’s local address book.
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