Plagued by robocalls? 26 billion spam calls in 2018, quarter from scammers

The number of robocalls to US consumers increased massively last year.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Consumers in the US received a whopping 26.3 billion robocalls in 2018, which was 46 percent more than that the total number of robocalls in 2017, according to Hiya, maker of a caller ID app.

The company estimates that people received on average 10 unwanted calls per month and that 25 percent of all robocalls are scams. The top three categories of unwanted calls in the US include general spam, fraud and telemarketing. 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has outlined plans to combat the problem of robocalls in the US. FCC chairman Ajit Pai in November fired off a letter to carriers demanding that the industry implements a call-authentication system by this year. The system aims to combat caller ID spoofing. 

He's pushing carriers to immediately adopt the Signature-based Handing of Asserted Information Using Tokens (Shaken) and the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited standards. 

Carriers would then 'sign' calls originating from their network, which would be validated by other carriers before reaching a phone. 

According to YouMail, another robocall-blocking service, the situation in 2018 was even worse, with the company last week reporting an estimated 47.8 billion robocalls in the US last year. Robocalls in 2018 were up 56.8 percent from the estimated 30.5 billion robocalls in 2017. 

SEE: Cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

Its data found that 37 percent of all robocalls were scams related to health insurance, student loans, easy money scams, tax scams, travel scams, business scams and warranty scams. The remaining 60 percent of robocalls were legitimate, including telemarketing calls, reminders and alerts. 

The FCC and the Federal Trade Commission both cite unwanted and illegal robocalls as their top source of complaints. The FTC received 7.1 million consumer complaints about robocalls in 2017, up from 5.3 million in 2016. The FCC says it gets about 200,000 complaints each year. 

The number of robocalls have increased over the years despite over 200 million US consumers have registered on the Do Not Call Registry.  


Hiya's research sets out the US area codes most targeted by spammers.

Image: Hiya

Previous and related coverage

Verizon to roll out free robocall spam protection to all customers

Call Filter service to be made available to all wireless and wired customers with compatible phones in March 2019.

T-Mobile launches caller verification to protect customers from scams

T-Mobile is first in the US to launch caller verification technology that meets the STIR/SHAKEN standards that guards against scam calls.

Here's how Apple, Google, and Microsoft can stop robocalls

In the war against telephone spam, only superior firepower will win. But it will require cooperation between the competing tech superpowers and their clouds in order to do it.

Google robocall scam: We're suing hustlers who pretend to be us, warns Google

Scam robocallers tell victims: call us now or your Google business listing will labeled closed.

Top 5 ways to block spam calls TechRepublic

Those annoying spam calls are on the rise. Tom Merritt has five solutions.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai calls for an end to 'illegal robocalls' CNET

He wants a system to detect illegally spoofed calls.

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