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Scam Calls Predicted To Increase To Nearly Half Of All Cell Phone Calls In 2019

A woman using a cell phone walks past T-Mobile and Sprint stores in 2010.
Mark Lennihan Associated Press
A woman using a cell phone walks past T-Mobile and Sprint stores in 2010.

A call-blocking technology firm recently predicted that next year, nearly half of all cell phone calls will be from scammers.

The firm, First Orion, is predicting that 45 percent of cell phone calls will be scams in 2019. That's from 3.7 percent of total calls in 2017 to more than 29 percent this year.

One of the most recent techniques scammers are using is called neighborhood spoofing. It involves the scammers phone number coming up on your caller ID with the same area code and prefix as your phone number.

Steven Andres, SDSU management information systems lecturer, will join Midday Edition on Wednesday to discuss this technique and the ways individuals can avoid these calls.

Scam Calls Predicted To Increase To Nearly Half Of All Cell Phone Calls In 2019
Scam Calls Predicted To Increase To Nearly Half Of All Cell Phone Calls In 2019 GUEST: Steven Andres, Ph.D., management information systems lecturer, San Diego State University

Your cell phone rings you check the number and you don't recognize it. You'll probably ignore the call. But what if your cell phone rings and the number calling is very close to your own. Are you more likely to pick it up. The answer is yes. And it's the underlying principle behind a phone scam called neighborhood spoofing. It's just one of the methods that are sending the number of spam calls through the roof. You need money for some unforeseen expenses. Today is your lucky day. Rachel I still have the 250000 dollar business line of credit free for you. I really just want to connect for a few minutes. You will be taken under custody by the local police. There are four serious allegations pressed on your name at this moment. This is an important message from D-R. This is an attempt to collect the dead and the information will only be used for that purpose. If we got here from Hartline We're back with matter outside of our office and no longer be possible here. She told me she and Hongki we are told will run them here until the niente one call blocking technology firm recently predicted that next year nearly half of all cell phone calls will be from scammers. Joining me by Skype is Dr. Stephen Andrei's management information systems lecturer at San Diego State University. Steven welcome to the program. Thanks so much for having me. How are the bulk of these phone scam calls being made. Is it electronically using random numbers. Actually the technique for the moment is by using the neighborhood attack that you mentioned. So they will target you based on your area code and the prefix the first three digits of your phone number hoping that it looks similar enough that you might answer it. And if you call that number back who we will you actually reach you'll get someone else in your neighborhood that has no idea what you're talking about. In fact in one anecdote reported to me by a student they called the number back and it was someone that thought that the student was the scammer and so they had a good laugh because they had both been scammed. Now that many people in the San Diego area have been getting calls in Chinese. What kind of scam is that. It's hard to know because I don't know Mandarin myself but I have received that myself. Just two days ago I don't know what that one's about but it is very prevalent. Now what kinds of scams are the most popular and prevalent the most popular I think is the tech support scam. It's of the variety where they call and they say this is Apple or this is Microsoft. And we've been notified by your computer that you have some malware and we're here to help and just you know give me your credit card number and we'll be able to remote control your machine and fix all the malware so they're taking the approach of urgency which is usually that the scammers friend and you stinking while there's malware on my machine I really want to solve this. Isn't this so great that someone has proactively called me to solve this. What I usually tell students is if a plumber knocked on your front door and said hey there's a leak in your house have decided to show up and fix it for you. You would be suspicious. And as such you should be suspicious about this scam phone call to scammers really make a lot of money using these techniques. Oh a bunch of money. Remember these are usually scammers that are outside the United States where the dollar goes a bit further and if they need to just make 20 999 off of your credit card and they do that several hundreds of times that is a fortune in other countries. It works in their advantage the exchange rate. So OK. Is there anything that you can do before you answer the phone is there a way to determine if the call is fake or legitimate. There really isn't. Previously these scammers that were using electronic methods by injecting phone calls into the global phone network using voice over IP. Previously they tended to use unknown or anonymous calls. And so folks started to learn hey I'm not going to answer that because it looks suspicious. The scammers then moved on to getting themselves toll free numbers because that looks like it has an air of legitimacy because usually companies will pay for toll free numbers. And that worked for a while but people started ignoring those as well. And so now they've moved on to this local neighborhood attack where they use the same area code prefix as your phone number. What about if you put your number on the Do Not Call list. That should help with legitimate callers. So if you are legitimate telemarketing company you will typically abide by folks that have been asked to not be called. But if you're in another country and you're trying to do a tech support scam you're not going to abide by that list. Now apparently the number of cell phone scam calls are skyrocketing from three point seven percent of total calls in 2017 to more than 29 percent this year. And now there are projections that 45 percent of cell phone calls will be scams by 2019 next year. Do you agree with those predictions. I don't know the science behind the numbers but it does seem to be on the rise anecdotally the reports that I hear from friends from students and business partners are that they are increasing to the point that some folks like myself will just not answer a number that is not already programmed into their mobile phone. That's generally what I do too but is that your only recourse. In other words what's being done on the technology front to stop these calls. There are some things that certain about a mobile apps can do by looking up the number and seeing if it's already been reported as a bad number. But remember the scammers they're choosing random numbers out of the blue. So that's sort of a cat and mouse game that's never going to catch up. I think it's a solution that can't really be done on the endpoint. The carriers the telephone companies of the world might need to get together and stamp this problem out. The incentives aren't there financially because they make money every time that call is connected. And so we'd be asking them to strengthen the caller ID rules and verify that caller ID which is going to result in less calls connected. Talk to us a little bit more about that. What could the cell phone carriers be doing to try to stop these scam calls if they wanted to. Well what they could do is a renewed effort to verify the caller I.D. such that when a call comes in routed from overseas that the phone company that it comes from actually owns that phone number instead of blindly passing along the caller ID that was provided by the voice over IP system. So in the meantime any other advice for dealing with these calls besides just not picking up if you don't know the number if you do happen to answer and it's any sort of urgency whether that be technical support or your bank purportedly calling you for fraud just think them kindly for their advice. Hang up. Do not call back on the number they called you on. Do not call back on the number they provide. Instead take out your wallet. Look at your credit card and call the number that's on the back because the numbers that they provide you on the phone are most likely ones to their call centers. OK I've been speaking with Dr. Steven Andrei's management information systems lecturer at San Diego State University. Thank you very much. My pleasure. You're listening to KPBS midday Edition.

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