November 11, 2021

Robokiller Reports: 2021’s most common call & text phone scams

Robokiller Reports: 2021’s most common call & text phone scams

Perennially annoying and financially harmful, phone scams aren’t going away anytime soon. Scammers turn up the dial year after year, continuously finding new ways to call and text their way into your bank account. Yet again, Robokiller is expecting a significant year-over-year increase in spam calls and texts in 2021.

The best way to avoid being scammed (aside from downloading Robokiller) is to recognize when someone’s trying to scam you. Here are the most common call and text scams so far in 2021.

Most common call scams (January-September 2021)

1. Vehicle warranty (16.71% of all call scams)

The most common (and most meme-able) call scam of 2021 so far has been the vehicle warranty scam. Even if you’ve never owned a vehicle in your life, there’s a decent chance you’ve received a call about your warranty—in fact, it’s statistically possible that every American with a smartphone will receive multiple car warranty robocalls in 2021. These callers aren’t associated with the vehicle dealer or manufacturer. They may try to sell you an expensive service contract, or they may simply be after your credit card number.

2. Religious (5.58%)

These especially sacrilegious scams often involve impersonating a religious figure and creating a fake crisis, asking victims to buy gift cards to help out, and promising reimbursement. Scammers play on victims’ sympathies while making up excuses as to why they themselves can’t help at the moment. Once victims send over the gift card information, it can be tough to get the money back. These scams tend to be more prevalent during the holidays, when people are already in a giving mood.

3. Health insurance (5.20%)

Since many people sign up for health insurance plans during the open enrollment period, this presents a window for scammers to trick victims into divulging personal information. Health insurance scammers often claim they can enroll you in a cheaper plan while retaining your benefits. If you’re asked for personal or payment information, or if the caller seems desperate to keep you on the phone, hang up.

4. Social Security (4.57%)

Many Social Security officials’ names and email addresses are publicly available, which makes it easier for scammers to sound like they’re legitimate—they might even make up badge numbers to lay on the intimidation. Scammers may claim that the victim owes money to the government and must pay a fee or fine immediately, but that’s simply not how the Social Security Administration operates; they would send you a letter, and they would not threaten arrest or legal action.

5. Vacation (4.07%)

After months of sheltering in place, people get the itch to travel again. Thus, when quarantine restrictions were lifted and air travel opened back up, planes weren’t the only thing soaring; the rate of travel-related phone scams took off again as well. From discount hotel stays to free cruises, the infamous “You have won!” scam is back. By signing up for these fake offers, victims give away enough information for scammers to do what they do best.

Most common text scams (January-September 2021)

1. Delivery (in order: Amazon, regular mail, USPS, FedEx; 28.96%)

The holidays are quite literally like Christmas for delivery scammers. As consumers eagerly await the fruits of their online shopping, they might let their guard down in their excitement. Delivery scammers send text messages that include links for tracking packages or updating delivery preferences, but clicking these links can be dangerous; they may lead to forms that ask you for personal information, or they might download malware onto your device.

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2. Political (in order: Trump, Biden; 10.58%)

There are sanctioned and non-sanctioned types of political robotexts. Unfortunately, both can be annoying and deceptive, and both may have an unwanted impact on your bank account. Though they’re not technically running scams, some political campaigns overreach with their bids for donations. Using unethical tactics like super-fine print and auto-checked boxes, they trick donors into signing up for recurring payments; only later do donors find out they’ve given much more than they intended to.

Read Robokiller’s Mid-Year Political Message Report

3. COVID-19 (9.11%)

Thanks to plentiful misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers retain broad audiences to target for scams involving supposedly more effective vaccines, antibody tests, and fake remedies.

4. Bank (4.10%)

An increase in online shopping means an increase in opportunities for scams, making the holidays an even more precarious time of year for your bank account. Consumers are already getting updates and alerts from their banks, so it may be easier for scammers to camouflage amongst those legitimate calls and texts. Once they’re in your account, however, it can be extremely difficult to get your money back. Sometimes bank scams can be difficult to spot, especially when the scammer spoofs the real bank’s caller ID. Be especially careful in this situation, and if you feel like something’s off, call your bank—not the number that called you—immediately.

5. Apple (2.85%)

iPhone and Mac users are popular targets for phishing scams that seek to elicit your personal information—in this case, your Apple ID. Unauthorized access to your cloud can become very dangerous very quickly, but the good news is these scams are often easy to spot. Look out for vague greetings, typos in messages, and corporate email addresses that sound less than legitimate.

How do societal trends impact phone scams?

Scammers are opportunists who are keenly aware of societal patterns and use them to exploit people’s pressure points. Unfortunately, the uncertainty and instability we’ve experienced in recent years have set the stage for exactly that type of exploitation.

In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic took over and people were required to quarantine, many scammers lost access to the technology they needed to run their ploys. Without the ability to disguise their caller IDs or autodial thousands of people every day, they had to find new ways to manipulate their victims. Since their resources were limited, scammers turned to a quality-over-quantity approach to get more return on their investment; that meant taking advantage of fear.

Although COVID-19 isn’t as much of an unknown now as it was in 2020, it shed some light on the way scammers plan their operations—and many COVID-related cons have carried over from last year. COVID scammers have frequently posed as:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suppliers

PPE became a desperate need as the pandemic tore through 2020. Scammers would pose as suppliers of masks, disinfectants, and other protective products, pretending to provide people with these much-needed supplies. People then placed orders over the phone, unknowingly giving their financial information directly to the crooks.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents

The stimulus checks that the federal government sent out were helpful in many ways, but the rollouts weren’t exactly flawless. Delays and confusion in the checks’ distribution opened up another opportunity for scammers: impersonating IRS agents to get between the people and their financial relief. These phony IRS agents convinced people to “register” with their personal information—everything from Social Security Numbers to credit card and banking details—in order to receive their stimulus checks.

Phone scammers are able to get away with so much because they recognize societal trends and use them to their advantage. Where there’s fear, weakness, or uncertainty, there’s opportunity for manipulation. That’s why you need to know how to identify a scam and what you can do to protect yourself.

Protecting yourself from call and text scams

Americans are projected to lose $716 million to scams by the end of 2021, with an average loss of $1,200 per call scam and $800 per text scam. Fortunately, there are ways you can fend off scammers and keep yourself safe.

Register your phone number

Though many people don’t think to sign up for it, the National Do Not Call Registry is a useful first line of defense against unwanted calls. Simply register your number (for free), and you’ll be protected from sales calls within 31 days. The Registry protects you from telemarketers only, but that means that if you do happen to get a call from a “telemarketer” you should be suspicious of who you’re talking to.

Hang up on red flags

When your gut tells you you’re being taken for a ride, you should listen to what it has to say. If you feel like an offer is too good to be true (e.g., “I don’t even remember signing up for this sweepstakes!”) there’s a distinct possibility that it is. Excitement is one of many emotions that phone scammers will try to utilize in order to exploit you.

Be especially wary of callers who pressure you to take action immediately, and don’t be afraid to hang up if things start to feel less than above-board.

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Don’t trust your Caller ID

Caller ID is helpful for avoiding your boss on your day off, but it’s not a perfect system. Scammers are adept at “spoofing” their numbers so they come up as an ID of their choosing. For example, they often spoof local numbers that the recipient might find more trustworthy.

Never give out your credit card, bank account, or personal information over the phone unless you’re absolutely positive who is on the other end.

Never say “Yes”

Phone scammers are more clever—or at least sneakier—than you might think. Even after a seemingly failed scam attempt, the con might really be going exactly as planned. Sometimes all they need is a word.If the caller asks a yes or no question, answer carefully; they might be looking for a simple clip of your voice saying the word “yes”. They can then manipulate that recording and use it as “evidence” to back up fraudulent claims, or at the least verify that your number is active and can be sold to telemarketers.

Download Robokiller

If you want to live free from scams and spam, you need a reliable spam call blocker. Scammers are always on the lookout for loopholes, but Robokiller ensures that you only get the calls and texts you want.

What makes Robokiller special?

An effective spam call blocker protects your finances, your privacy, and your peace of mind. Robokiller does this by:

  • Intercepting and recording spam calls
  • Fingerprinting each voice
  • Identifying all numbers associated with this audio fingerprint
  • Blocking these numbers from calling users

Our robocall blocking technology creates audio fingerprints for spammers, meaning that even if they call from a different number, we already have their voices in our database. Then our Answer Bots string scammers along and waste their time in entertaining (for us) fashion. You’ll get access to more than 100 conversations, and you can also check out RoboRadio to experience Answer Bots in all of their comedic glory.

Here are a few of the achievements the Robokiller app has under its belt:

  • 90% reduction in spam calls within 30 days
  • 99% effective call and text protection
  • $375+ million in consumer losses prevented
  • 500+ million spam calls blocked

This success is due to Robokiller’s unique features, which include:

  • Audio fingerprinting technology
  • Comprehensive protection from phone scams and telemarketers
  • Customizable levels of call blocking
  • Access to conversations between Answer Bots and spammers
  • Top-notch support from the Robokiller team

Download the Robokiller spam call blocker on your iPhone or Android. Start your FREE 7-day trial to check it out for yourself!

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You’re one step away from a spam-free phone (and a little poetic justice, thanks to Answer Bots).
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