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Robocalls that steal your phone number are getting worse

Robocalls that steal your phone number are getting worse
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At 200 million a day, the vast number of robocalls from legitimate companies and scammers is an epidemic in this country. Now, there's something else to worry about.

A new report finds that the number of robocallers stealing your phone number and using it to send out even more calls has doubled. The report also finds that scammers are working around systems that block them.

Read on to find out how robocallers steal and use your number. We also have tips on how to protect yourself.

Nuisance and high-risk calls

Transaction Network Services (TNS), a networking and integrated data services company, has released its 2019 First Half Robocall Investigation Report. The report is a bi-annual update of key robocall trends.

Among the report's findings, is that robocall hijacking of mobile numbers has more than doubled. One in 1,700 mobile numbers is being hijacked by robocall spoofers every month compared to one in 4,000 during the same time last year.

Robocallers who hijack numbers can use them to send thousands of calls. The TNS report found that hijacked numbers resulted in 2.5% of people disconnecting their phones.

The TNS report looked at data for high-risk robocalls that are scams, are attempting to get personal information or separate you from your money. The report also looked at so-called nuisance robocalls that aren't malicious or negligent non-compliance.

 

Related: Robocall revenge: How some consumers are fighting back (and you can too)

 

Nuisance calls are increasing at a faster rate than high-risk calls. From the third quarter of 2018 to the second quarter of 2019, nuisance calls increased by 38%. During that same period, high-risk calls grew by 28%.

Surprisingly, high-risk scams made up nearly 30% of all robocalls in the U.S. during the first six months of the year. So while the high-risk calls get most of the press, nuisance calls make up 70% of the 200 million robocalls per day.

Among the high-risk scams, neighbor spoofing and snowshoe spamming made up 25% of all negative calls. They also are growing more sophisticated.

With neighbor spoofing, bad actors create numbers that look like they come from your area in order to get you to answer the phone. Using many spoofed numbers, spammers make robocalls in low volumes and then drop the numbers rapidly to avoid detection. This is called snowshoe spamming.

Robocallers shift away from top mobile carriers

Top U.S. mobile carriers have made changes to block robocalls after being pressured by consumers and lawmakers. The changes range from placing blocking defaults on phones to services that allow users to separate the calls they need from the high-risk and nuisance ones.

Some carriers are also dipping their toes into the protocol nicknamed SHAKEN/STIR that can verify the legitimacy of a number through a digital signature. The changes appear to be working.

 

Related: Woman spammed with hundreds of robocalls from same store awarded $459k

 

The TNS report found that while the top six U.S. carriers — AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — account for 70% of total call volume, only 12% of high-risk robocalls originate from numbers owned by these carriers. That suggests top carriers are making headway in the robocall war.

“However, with top carriers successfully blocking more robocalls," stated Bill Versen, chief product officer at TNS, "the report suggests the need for diligence as the battlefront may shift to smaller regional and rural carriers."

Bad actors also are shifting to spoofing toll-free numbers. The percentage of calls originating from toll-free numbers more than doubled from 12% last year to 25% today, according to the report. This is causing a challenge to leading organizations whose legitimate numbers are being spoofed by high-risk robocallers.

Protect yourself from robocallers

Despite major mobile carriers making changes to block robocalls and government agencies cracking down on the perpetrators, to protect yourself, you have to take action as well.

Here are 7 things you can do to make sure you block robocalls but still connect with who you need to.

  1. Reject anonymous calls automatically
  2. Join the National Do Not Call Registry list
  3. Set your phone on do not disturb
  4. Add your doctor and health care provider to your favorites, so they can get through even when you're in do-not-disturb mode
  5. Use carrier tools to block unwanted calls
  6. Use the best apps to block robocalls
  7. Block individual phone numbers

For more information, read Komando.com's "Complete guide to stopping robocalls in 2019." Remember to stay vigilant in the war against robocalls. You'll be helping yourself and the community.

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