Robocalls now flooding US phones with 200m calls per day

This is unlikely to surprise anybody who owns a phone: according to a new report, nearly 30% of all US calls placed in the first half of this year were garbage, as in, nuisance, scam or fraud calls. That puts the approximate volume of sludge coming into people’s at a mind-boggling 200 million unwanted calls per day.

The TNS 2019 Robocall Investigation Report comes from Transaction Network Services (TNS), which markets a big-data analytics engine that aims to suppress unwanted calls to consumers by applying machine learning, as well as an authentication hub to help carriers combat illegal spoofing and to help consumers fend off .

TNS’s analysis crunched approximately one billion daily calls, placed via hundreds of carriers. TNS defines “high-risk” robocalls – i.e., scam/fraudulent calls – as those that try to shake down targets for personal information and/or money. It defines “nuisance” robocalls as those that are, well, just nuisances that lack malicious intent and that don’t reflect negligent non-compliance.

“Nuisance” calls aren’t always defined to exclude scams, but we can look to the UK for what strikes me as an example of TNS’s definition…

A few years back, Home Logic, a UK firm that offers energy-saving solutions, was made £50,000 lighter thanks to a penalty issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for making marketing calls to people who had made it clear – via the free Telephone Preference Service (TPS)  – that they didn’t want to be contacted in that way.

It was a tech glitch, Home Logic said at the time. What happened was that it licensed the numbers it used to make marketing calls from third-party providers. It then uploaded that data to an electronic dialer system that screened the numbers against the TPS register. One of the third-party providers left it up to Home Logic UK to ensure that the data supplied was screened against the TPS.

Technical issues knocked the system out for 90 days out of 220 between April 2015 and March 2016. That didn’t slow down Home Logic, though: the unsolicited marketing calls kept right on coming, but with no screening against the TPS register.

The rate of this type of non-malicious nuisance call is rising faster than the malicious type that tries to scam you, TNS found.

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