Americans are on track to receive 71.5 billion spam calls and 86 billion spam texts in 2021, according to data from Robokiller’s Mid-Year Phone Scam Report. These figures represent a 30% and 55% annual increase, respectively.
Unfortunately, this onslaught of unwanted calls and texts will result in significant losses for the victims. Scammers are projected to steal $716 million with these scams; $615 million by phone call and $101 million by text message. These projected financial losses mark a year-over-year increase of 40% and 18%, respectively.
Spam calls grew at a rate of 30% per month from June through December of 2020. They reached their peak of 6.2 billion in October, just ahead of the Presidential election. Scammers pushed aggressively in the second half of 2020 to make up for lost ground following the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though the spike in robocalls observed in mid-late 2020 didn’t continue into 2021—spam call volume grew just 5% per month in the first half of 2021—Americans are nonetheless on track to receive 17 billion more spam calls this year than they did last year.
Voice service providers had until June 30th, 2021 to implement STIR/SHAKEN, a set of protocols outlined by the FCC to combat caller ID spoofing (when a caller disguises their identity to deceive the recipient). Robokiller observed a 5% decrease in spoofed calls in July, followed by a 4% increase in August, indicating that its effect thus far has been negligible.
Though STIR/SHAKEN is off to a slow start—largely because small carriers have until mid-2023 to adopt the framework—we do expect it to ultimately prove useful in decreasing the frequency of spoofed calls. Even so, it’s unlikely to stop the spam call problem on its own.
In August, spammers sent 20% more text messages than they made spam calls. Even though STIR/SHAKEN is showing mixed returns thus far, it’s likely had an effect on scammers in that they’re seeking workarounds to reach potential targets. Based on trends observed between April and June 2021, we can expect that STIR/SHAKEN will drive a roughly 5% average monthly increase in total spam texts for the remainder of 2021 as scammers pivot portions of their operations to new mediums.
Spammers are using text messages as a key way to reach consumers more frequently. That’s because text messages have a higher engagement rate and have proven an effective way to scam people.
According to Robokiller’s Mid-Year Phone Scam Report, consumers can expect to receive a 55% increase in spam text messages from 2020’s 55 billion. This could result in $101 million in projected financial losses—an 18% increase from 2020. As scammers refine their tactics, consumers can expect to suffer more significant financial losses. We saw this from 2019 to 2020, when Americans reported a 28% increase in total financial losses to spam text messages—$86 million in 2020 compared to 2019’s $67 million.
Robokiller believes the 5% average growth rate in spam text messages from January to March 2021 reflects a pattern that smartphone users can expect to hold for the remainder of the year. STIR/SHAKEN will likely contribute to the 5% increase in spam text messages as spammers pivot their efforts to new mediums.
Spam text trends in 2021 show that spammers continue to target consumers with relevant scams related to current events. COVID-19 vaccination, contact tracing, and other related text scams will likely increase by more than 100% in 2021 to 1 billion annual texts, up from an estimated 420 million in 2020. We believe spam text messages have the potential to become the next robocall problem (or bigger) if measures aren’t taken to stop scammers before they can take advantage of this blindspot.
Luckily, Robokiller already has a text blocking solution that is 99% effective at blocking spam text messages. Robokiller continues to invest heavily in developing technology to prevent the spam text problem from becoming the next robocall problem.
Since its launch in 2017, Robokiller has advocated against phone fraud, helped shut down scam operations, and invested heavily in robust spam text and spam call blocking technology to stop dangerous scams from reaching consumers. In 2020, Robokiller prevented over $37.7M in consumer losses to phone fraud, wasted over 104 million minutes of scammers’ time, and blocked more than 200 million spam calls. Robokiller’s powerful spam call and SMS blocker algorithm prevents dangerous phone scams and text messages from reaching Americans nationwide.