Have you noticed you're getting a lot more spam and scam phone calls lately?
Pathetic spammers and phishing attempts? Or just from weird numbers that look like they might be local?
Your area code for example, or even more similar digits to your own?
Well, you're not imagining it. About 3.7 percent of all incoming mobile calls in 2017 came from scammers and spam, and as bad as that was, it's gotten almost eight times worse this year: 29 percent of all incoming calls on our phones are now scams.
What's worse, next year the percentage is projected to go as high as 45 percent--nearly half of all incoming phone calls. This data and projection comes from a company called First Orion, in its 2018 Scam Call Trends and Projections Report last week.
"Year after year, the scam call epidemic bombards consumers at record-breaking levels, surpassing the previous year and scammers increasingly invade our privacy at new extremes," said Charles D. Morgan, CEO and Head Data Scientist of First Orion.
As annoying as these calls are for people like you and me, I'm going to guess we're unlikely to actually to fall for the scams. However, reports abound with stories of people who've wound up losing hundreds and thousands of dollars to them.
Among the most prevalent:
Scam calls targeting immigrant communities, that take advantage of people's lack of familiarity with the legal system here to suggest that they have to pay to clear up some kind of legal issue.
"Across several U.S. metropolitan areas with large Chinese populations, scam callers have posed as representatives of the Chinese embassy while trying to trick Chinese immigrants and students into revealing their credit card numbers," reports The Washington Post.
(If you get a call with someone speaking in Chinese or another foreign language you don't understand, they're likely targeting another community and just mass-dialed your number.)
When we're almost at the point that the phone part of your cell phone loses a lot of utility if you think that nearly half of incoming calls are fraud. And while occasionally scammers do get caught and punished, it's almost impossible to catch most of them.
The telephone numbers you see on caller ID are most likely spoofed, so it's impossible to trace them. And the bad actors behind them are mostly from outside the country, far away from the reach of U.S. laws and police.
So what's the solution? Well, not coincidentally, First Orion's business is in selling advances caller ID and call blocking technology to phone companies, including T-Mobile, MetroPCS, Boost Mobile, which can then pass it along to customers.
Their study is intended encourage adoption of their technology, and to portray a worst-case prediction. But maybe we're already almost there.
"More than half of all complaints received by the FCC come from unwanted calls," the Post reports. "The agency says it fields more than 200,000 such complaints each year," and that Americans get 2.4 billion robo-calls every month.