Phone spam is a major problem. So big, in fact, that Americans are collectively fending off over 4 billion spam calls per month. Some researchers suggest that phone spam will make up over 40% of all phone calls in the US from 2019 onward, highlighting just how big of a problem we have on our hands in the States.
I’ve also written about my own spam call problem with eye-opening data visualizations that highlight how the problem is plaguing my own phone. My situation is likely reflective of what many American, Canadian, and UK residents are also experiencing, given the phone spam problem extends beyond just the US and beyond just one man. The problem has grown so large, in fact, that it’s created an entire (and lucrative) market for apps (like Truecaller and Robokiller) that filter out spam calls. Tech companies and governments alike are investing massive amounts of time and resources into solving the problem.
With phone spam receiving increasing amounts of scrutiny, it should come as no surprise that there are key phone spam statistics that highlight the growing problem.
Phone spam stats: The big picture
There are 10 stats that we can point to which provide a high-level understanding of the phone spam problem:
- In 2017, around 2.7 percent of all calls in the US were scam calls. (Source: First Orion)
- In 2019, roughly 40 percent of all calls in the US were scams. (Source: First Orion)
- By the end of 2019, 44.6 percent of phone calls in the US were predicted to be scam calls, reflecting the exponential growth of the problem. (Source: First Orion)
- In 2017, almost none of the scam calls in the US were using neighborhood spoofing. (Source: First Orion)
- By 2018, nearly 70 percent of scam calls in the US were using neighborhood spoofing. (Source: First Orion)
- By the end of 2019, over 80 percent of all scam calls in the US were using area codes local to the recipient. (Source: First Orion)
- Americans lost nearly $19.7 billion from phone scams in 2020 — more than double the amount lost in 2020. (Source: Truecaller)
- The number of spam calls jumped over 300 percent worldwide between 2017 and 2018. (Source: Truecaller)
- 56 million US residents lost money from a phone scam in 2020. This is an increase of 30% on last year. (Source: Truecaller)
- Mobile-originated scam calls made up over 80 percent of all scam calls by the end of 2019. (Source: First Orion)
Additional phone spam and scam statistics
Phone spam is an international nuisance that represents just how advanced cybercriminals have become at using telecommunications technology to their own advantage. The significant growth rate of mobile-based phone spam and phone number spoofing also reflects the difficulties governments, telecommunications companies, tech companies, and consumers are all having when it comes to responding to the threat.
The following statistics provide a clear picture of how extensive phone spam is worldwide, and just how much damage and frustration this issue is causing.
- Over 26 billion robocalls were made to US phones in 2018, representing a 46 percent year-over-year growth. (Source: Hiya)
- 44% of Americans received spam calls related to COVID-19 in 2020. (Source: Truecaller).
- According to Hiya, US residents experienced an average of 10 robocalls per month. (Source: Hiya)
- However, Truecaller’s 2020 data report shows an average of 28 calls per month, up from 16.9 spam calls per month in 2018. This reflecting a distinct difference in how spam-blocking companies are collecting and analyzing data. (Source: Truecaller)
- In the US, the top spam callers in 2018 were insurance companies (39 percent) and debt collectors (33 percent). (Source: Truecaller)
- Calls verified as scams made up just 7 percent of all phone spam in the US in 2018, while robocalls made up 9 percent. Nuisance calls made up 13 percent of all calls. (Source: Truecaller)
- In the UK, insurance and nuisance calls make up over 50 percent of all phone spam. (Source: Truecaller)
- UK residents also deal with a large proportion of debt collection spam, at 18 percent of all spam calls in 2018. (Source: Truecaller)
- Scam calls were a larger problem in the UK than in the US in 2018, as 18 percent of all UK spam calls were scams. (Source: Truecaller)
- Interestingly, the UK is one of the only countries where marketing research calls are a part of the spam data, with 3 percent of all spam calls in the UK related to marketing research in 2018. (Source: Truecaller)
- Brazil leads the world in spam callers per person. In 2019, Brazilian residents received over 45 phone spam calls per person, per month. (Source: Truecaller)
- Peru was a distant second in spam calls per person, with just over 30 calls per person, per month. (Source: Truecaller)
- Interestingly, the US dropped from the second-highest country for phone spam per person in 2017, to the 8th in 2018. (Source: Truecaller)
- Landline phone scams in the US are on the decline. In 2017, scammers used landlines for 56 percent of their phone scam attempts. In 2019, that number is projected to fall to less than 25 percent. (Source: First Orion)
- Telemarketers made up only 25% of robocalls in 2018. (Source: Hiya)
- Legitimate fraud calls and “general spam” calls made up over 50 percent of spam calls in 2018. (Source: Hiya)
- The Wangiri Scam, also known as the “one-call scam”, increased 250 percent between 2017 and 2018. (Source: Hiya)
- The 214 area code in Dallas, Texas received the most number of spam calls in 2018. (Source: Hiya)
- In fact, Texas area codes represented the top 5 most targeted area codes in 2018, while Texas also took 7 out of 10 spots on a top 10 list for most targeted area codes. (Source: Hiya)
- According to Hiya, consumers are far more likely to pick up phone calls from numbers saved in their contact’s list (70 percent), than numbers that aren’t (38 percent). (Source: Hiya)
- Phone users rarely pick up numbers identified as “spam” by call blockers and filtering software. Just 9 percent of calls marked as “spam” were answered. (Source: Hiya)
- Overall, consumers only picked up roughly half of all calls they received. (Source: Hiya)
- The average spam call only lasts 11 seconds. (Source: Hiya)
- Scammers are now using hacked data to make more targeted attacks via spam calls. FirstOrion found 28 percent of scam callers use some form of personal data to persuade victims. (Source: FirstOrion)
- Of those who lost $1,000 or more to a phone scam, 75 percent claimed the caller already possessed critical personal information prior to the call. (Source: FirstOrion)
- 39% of victims said that the scammer knew their home address before it was given. Likewise, in 17% of cases, the scammer knew some or all of the victim’s social security number. (Source: FirstOrion)
- Because 70 percent of consumers do not pick up unknown numbers, scam callers are now spoofing the numbers of legitimate businesses in an effort to also spoof caller ID services. This method has been dubbed “enterprise spoofing”. (Source: FirstOrion)
- The rise of Enterprise Spoofing may cause a 20 percent reduction in neighbor spoofing as scam callers switch tactics. (Source: FirstOrion)
No end to phone spam in sight
Currently, available data suggests one troubling conclusion: there is no clear end in sight for the world’s growing phone-spam problem. As spammers quickly adapt to more discreet and harder-to-stop methods, telecommunications companies and governments have struggled to address the issue. According to Truecaller’s Director of Communications, Kim Fai Kok, “By just looking at the trends and statistics, we do not see spam calls stopping any time soon.”
See also: Cyber security statistics