Report: Spam Phone Calls Jumped 300 Percent in 2018

Posted on December 19, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile with 16 Comments

According to a report from TrueCaller, spam phone calls surged by over 300 percent in 2018. I believe it: I currently receive far more spam calls than legit phone calls.

“[Our] users helped Truecaller report and identify 132.1 million unique spam numbers, which resulted in 17.7 billion calls blocked and identified,” the company notes. “Close to every fourth call that our users receive are spam calls.”

What constitutes a spam call? It’s basically any unwanted phone call and can include nuisance, telemarketing, wireless company upsell, financial services, scam, insurance, debt collection, political, and even health-related calls.

My own experience with spam calls comes largely from robo-calls, and TrueCaller says that 9 percent of “top spammers” in the US come from robo-calls. My phone is starting to get smarter about ignoring these calls. But some spam calls are truly damaging: Apparently, 10 percent of Americans actually lost money to phone-based scammers in 2018. The average loss was $357 per victim.

It’s also worse in other countries, and the United States is only the 8th-most victimized, behind Brazil, India, China, South Africa, Mexico, Peru, and Costa Rica, and just ahead of Greece and Spain.

“Digging deeper into the bigger markets, we found common categories that tie all these spam calls together,” TrueCaller explains. “The biggest pattern we could see was that operators across the world are the biggest spammers. We could also see that telemarketing calls from financial services, debt collectors and insurance related matters are spamming our users globally.”

You should check out TrueCaller’s annual report for more information.


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Comments (16)

16 responses to “Report: Spam Phone Calls Jumped 300 Percent in 2018”

  1. John Craig

    Slightly off topic, but I received a spam email yesterday, from someone threatening to throw acid in my face unless I deposit money in a bitcoin account.

    Now, I'm pretty used to seeing the old "we hacked your camera and saw you jerking off and we're going to send the video to all your contacts unless you pay us..." stuff, I've been getting those for years. But threatening actual, gruesome physical violence? That's hardcore, scary and I can absolutely see how people who are less au fait in the ways of how spammers operate might actually fall for it.

    Massively sweeping statement here, but the internet really sucks. For every good thing it gave us, we received a deluge of badness.

    • Daekar

      In reply to John_Craig:

      I think that moves it from spam (minor infraction) to serious crime.

      How does the scum who sends this stuff sleep at night? I'm going to be mad if someday I find out that it's on a tropical island surrounded by fine wine and swimsuit models.

  2. Clarkb

    Been using Google's new Call Screening function, it's proving to be a very effective way of dealing with spam calls.

    • beatnixxx

      In reply to Clarkb:

      my experience as well. Have set in android settings to send spam calls straight to voice mail, no ring. Cut my unwanted calls (I guess I still receive them technically, I just don't know about it) to almost nil.

    • drprw

      In reply to Clarkb: I really enjoy the new call screening function in Android (Pixel 3). It works great!

  3. Bob Nelson

    Odd. I've had the same number forever, and I get no spam calls at all. I try to be careful and never do anything dumb like posting it on craigslist and the like, but other than that, I don't really take any special precautions.

    My sister on the other hand, is about to change carriers. When she visits, her phone just never stops ringing, Constant deluge of crap calls.

    John_Craig, I agree somewhat. While I couldn't get along nowadays without the internet, It's basically a necessary evil at this point.

  4. markmagnus

    I have posted this before and it met with resistance. I will persist. What we need is a white listing capability. White lists for many people would be fairly small and easy to maintain. Easier than block lists which will grow to be unmanageable. The calls would not even have to ring. Just be immediately be dumped to voicemail or just completely dropped. This could be done for both cell phones and desk phones. White listing has been around for a long time. IT loves them. Phone users will also. This doesn’t have to be an either or. Today's phones could handle both types. The worse the ratio of real calls to spam calls gets, the more white listing will appeal to people.

  5. Daekar

    I can't imagine having to deal with this without one little think I lucked into: I have the wrong area code on my phone because I never changed my number when I moved. There is literally no one in that old area code that needs to talk to me, but the spammers don't know that and try to spoof a "local" number, which means all I have to do to avoid spam calls is not answer anything with my own area code.

  6. ggolcher

    I cannot stress this enough: if you are in the US you should enroll *all* of your phone numbers in the National Do Not Call Registry ( When I did that my volume of spam calls went down substantially. It's the first thing I do when getting a new phone number.

    • rbwatson0

      In reply to ggolcher:

      I have had my cell phone number (only phone nuber I have now) enrolled in the do not call list for over a decade. I receive about 2 spam calls an hour during the work day. Mostly robo calls which are 1. Illegal to call a number on the list and 2. Illegal to call a cell phone. But that doesn't stop anything.

      • ggolcher

        In reply to rbwatson0:

        Sorry to hear that. I hope you are able to address that. For what it's worth, that has not my experience at all.

        Regardless, it will help others, even if not completely for everybody. It's part of defense in depth, as they say.

  7. bassoprofundo

    I must be lucky in that I get almost no calls like that on my personal number. I've had the same number since I was in high school (early 90s) and had a bag phone, and I give it out to very few folks, so maybe that's it. I get the very occasional call from my own area and local code that obviously spam but not much else. I do have the AT&T Call Protect app and see where it stops some periodically. I can't imagine how bad it must be for folks who use their cell as their primary contact number, though.

  8. mmcewan

    What the hell is Google doing spamming businesses with threats to 'delist' them in their search engine? If this is not Google doing this, what is the point of these calls?

    We all need to switch to toll numbers where we get paid when we're called. That will stop spammers in their tracks. Or let the Telco's take the hit when the spammers don't pay up! Quite likely they'd soon find a way to throttle it all back.

    And so we pay each other for legit calls, too. It comes out a wash, most likely.

  9. cyloncat

    With Caller ID spoofing, blacklisting is useless. I frequently get the same junk calls from many different numbers. Some spoofers will pick up the first six digits of my phone number (area code and exchange) so it might look like "a neighbor".

    I don't answer any more unless the caller ID hits my contacts list. Otherwise, it goes to voicemail. It's not foolproof, but it's as good a whitelist as I can hope for. (I did get a spoofed caller ID from my own phone number once!)

    I also appreciate that my Apple Watch lets me reject a phone call with one tap.

  10. lvthunder

    I don't use my phone for business so I just don't answer the phone unless it is someone in my contact list.