Hiya’s latest study for Q4 of 2023 found that 29% of calls Americans received last quarter from unknown contacts were spam but only 1% were fraud
Seattle, Washington (February 8th, 2024) Hiya, the global leader in voice security, has completed its latest study on phone spam and fraud around the world. Published today, Hiya’s Q4 2023 Global Call Threat Report found that spammers and scammers across the globe were busy during the holiday season, bombarding consumers with unwanted calls and impersonating legitimate businesses. Scams related to package deliveries were especially popular from October to December, as were calls impersonating Amazon and other major retailers.
In the fourth quarter of 2023, Hiya observed 7.3 billion unwanted calls globally – that’s more than 81 million spam calls every day – up from 6.55 billion in Q3. Much of that increase was due to new users being added to the Hiya network but there was a seasonal impact. For example, the number of spam calls peaked at 357 million the week after Thanksgiving, when US consumers are shopping, distracted and therefore particularly vulnerable to scams.
Americans targeted with health insurance scams during open enrollment period and AI-generated voice scams on the horizon
American consumers in Q4 received an average of 15 spam calls per month, which was higher than all the European countries listed in Hiya’s report but not as high as some countries in South America. The US’s spam rate for the quarter was a relatively high 29% but interestingly, only 1% of those unwanted calls are fraud, giving it one of the lowest fraud rates in the world. Most fraud calls in the US are blocked by the carrier at the network level, so they never reach consumers.
The most commonly reported scams targeting Americans in Q4 involved Medicare, insurance, taxes, Amazon, credit cards, relief (debt relief, tax relief, etc.) and payment platform apps such as Venmo, PayPal, Zelle and Cash App. While many of the scams remained steady throughout the quarter, Medicare and health insurance scams spiked during the health care open enrollment period, which runs from late October to early December each year.
The report also predicts that AI-generated voice clone scams are on the horizon in 2024. While Hiya’s new report was being prepared, voters in New Hampshire received robocalls with a gen-AI faked voice of President Joe Biden telling them to skip the state's primary election on January 23rd.
France and Spain had the highest spam rates in Europe, same as the past four quarters
Residents of France and Spain received the same number of unwanted calls each month: an average of 10 per person. But in Q4, France overtook Spain as the European country with the highest spam rate, hitting 47%. That means that nearly half of the unidentified calls received in France in Q4 were unwanted: either nuisance or fraud.
The most prolific phone scam in France in Q4 impersonated the French electric utility company, EDF Energy. With this scam, imposters lure victims with government-funded energy subsidies, solar panel installation and other schemes to save money on energy costs. Also popular were scams impersonating bank officials and ploys to cheat citizens out of their Compte Personnel de Formation funds, which are provided by the French government to pay for professional training.
Scam calls impersonating banks were the most-reported type of fraud in Spain during Q4; insurance scams came in a close second. Package delivery and cryptocurrency scams were also common in Spain, as they are in many other countries. Also making the list were family member scams, in which fraudsters posed as a daughter, son, grandchild or other family member in trouble and in need of an urgent money transfer.
United Kingdom phone users hit with an abundance of immigration-related scams
UK residents received four spam calls per person each month in Q4, according to Hiya’s data.
The UK’s spam rate of 28% was about the same as the US, but it gets more fraud calls. Common in Q4 were HMRC tax scams and Amazon imposter scams.
In December, Hiya users in the UK began reporting an increase in robocalls warning that their immigration visas had expired, even if they were life-long citizens. The calls prompted recipients to press a number to speak to an immigration officer. UK news reports tell of a current scam targeting hopeful immigrants living in other countries. Upon paying upfront fees for phony travel visas, Ukrainians are promised sponsor families, and Nigerians are promised skilled worker permits. After they arrive at UK airports, victims discover they have been fooled.
Brazillians endured an average of 24 spam calls per month in Q4
Brazillians received an average 24 spam calls per month last quarter. Nearly half of the unidentified calls in the country were spam (44%) and 9% of those unwanted calls were fraud.
Hiya’s data showed that banking scams were by far the most common type of phone scam in Brazil in Q4. Hiya users in Brazil told of callers impersonating bank employees who asked the call recipient to confirm personal information and passwords. A security awareness group in Brazil warned of the Ghost Hand Attack, in which fraudsters convince victims to download a mobile app to protect their account, then remotely take control of the phone (as if a ghost), eventually removing all the money in their account.
If you hate getting spam calls, don’t move to Oklahoma or Ohio
Oklahoma and Ohio had the highest spam rates in the US in Q4, at 28%. Arkansas was not far behind at 27%. . If you don’t mind the cold, you might consider moving to Alaska: its spam rate was 13%, less than half the rate of Oklahoma.
According to the Federal Trade Commision, imposter scams are the most commonly reported type of fraud in Oklahoma. Many scams fall under that general category, but the FTC also lists other scams reported by residents of Oklahoma. Those include healthcare scams and fraud relating to internet/phone/mobile services, investments, and sweepstakes/lotteries.
In November, a county sheriff's office in Oklahoma issued a warning to citizens about ongoing Medicare scam calls. It states that Medicare numbers are often more valuable to criminals than credit card or Social Security numbers. Convincing a victim to reveal their Medicare number allows criminals to bill Medicare for false medical services or supplies.
“What can we take from this data?” asked Kush Parikh, President of Hiya. “Mainly that phone fraud and spam is a growing, global problem from which no phone-user is immune. Also that all members of the telecom community, from carriers to vendors, must work together to increase consumer confidence in the phone as being safe and trustworthy. A failure to accomplish this goal would result in a breakdown of the world’s most longstanding communication tool.”
Hiya report methodology
The Q4 Global Call Threat Report is based on a representative sample of calls observed by Hiya on the Hiya Voice Security Network, which includes Samsung Smart Call enabled devices and the Hiya mobile app.
Spam ratios represent the number of unwanted calls from non-contacts, which are calls placed from numbers that are not in an individual’s local address book. Hiya is constantly improving how it detects and flags nuisance and fraud calls, so fluctuations quarter to quarter do not necessarily indicate an increase or decrease in nuisance and fraud rates.
To learn more and view the complete Q4 Global Call Threat Report from Hiya, download a copy here.
Hiya is trusted by global businesses, carriers, and consumers to provide secure, engaging connections and stop unwanted calls. Built on the world’s leading Voice Security Platform, Hiya connects businesses with their customers, helps carriers secure their networks, and protects people from spam and fraud calls. Hiya’s SaaS applications, Hiya Connect and Hiya Protect, serve more than 450 million users on the Hiya Network, powering call protection and identity for EE, Samsung, Ericsson and more. Learn more at www.hiya.com.
February 8, 2024