Number of spam calls spiked globally in 2020: Truecaller report

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Despite numerous efforts by carriers, telecom regulators, developers of mobile platforms, smartphone manufacturers and a global pandemic spam calls continued to torment and scam people across the globe.

According to the US-based company Truecaller, users worldwide received 31.3 billion spam calls between January and October this year, up from 26 billion over the same time last year and 17.7 billion the year before.

The company, best known for its caller ID app, reported that this year, an average individual received 28.4 spam calls a month, up from 18.2 last year. With 49.9 spam calls per user a month, Brazil remained the worst affected from spam calls. In 2019, the company witnessed a spike from the already alarming 45.6 figure last year, the company said in its yearly report on the subject.

Pandemic impact

However the coronavirus pandemic decreased the number of spam calls users had to face in many markets, including India, which topped the list of Truecaller for the worst affected nation three years ago. The country, Truecaller’s largest market, fell this year to ninth place on the chart with 16.8 monthly spam calls per user, down from 25.6 last year.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has directly and indirectly affected not only global economies and societies, but spammer behavior. As the virus spread exponentially worldwide, spam calls started to decrease around March,” said Truecaller, which analyzed over 145 billion anonymous calls to reach this conclusion.

“Spam reached its lowest point in April, when strict curfews and lock downs were implemented worldwide. The overall volume of calls also dipped during this period. However, from this point, reports of scammers taking advantage of the uncertainty around the pandemic emerged. In May, spam calls started to pick up again and have been increasing on average by 9.7% per month. October, with a record high in terms of spam calls, was 22.4% higher than the pre-lockdown period,” the report said.

Findings from the report

  • On weekends, spammers take time off from work.
  • Last year the South American region dominated the top 10 list. This year, a decline in spam calls have been seen in Chile, Peru and Colombia this year.
  • This year’s list included a number of European countries like Hungary, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Germany, Romania, Greece and Belgium.
  • The biggest increase of spam calls came from Europe and the US as Hungary saw the biggest jump (1132%), followed by Germany (685%), Belgium (557%) and Romania (395%).
  • The most affected countries in Asia were Indonesia (18.3), India (16.8), Vietnam (14.7) and Russia (14.3).
  • Scammers taking advantage of the pandemic was a reason for the increase of scam calls.

More than just annoyance

These calls are often used to scam individuals out of money in addition to causing annoyance. According to an earlier Truecaller survey, as many as 56 million people reported having lost money to phone scams this year while an estimated $19.7 billion was lost to such calls.

In certain markets, it is also difficult to avoid such calls because trusted organizations, including telecom providers and banks, are themselves involved in making many of these calls, the study found. For example, about 9 percent of all spam calls received by individuals were dialed by telecom networks, the report said.