Insurance, scams dominate spam calls in SA

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Spam call volumes in South Africa have decreased in comparison with last year.

This is according to caller identification app Truecaller, which aggregated data anonymously from incoming as well as outgoing calls and messages from 1 January to 31 October.

During this period, Truecaller identified 145 billion calls and 13.8 billion spam SMSes globally.

The latest Truecaller Insights report looks into the top 20 countries affected by spam calls in 2020.

It notes that with the pandemic breaking out earlier this year and countries going into various lockdowns, there has been a significant change in communication behaviour and patterns of spam around the world.

The fourth edition of the report reveals the significant shift in which countries are now receiving the most spam calls.

According to the company, last year, SA ranked as the sixth-highest spammed country in the world and this year is the 17th most spammed country globally.

No lockdown for spam

It points out that in SA, users on average receive 11.3 spam calls a month compared to 25.2 spam calls from last year’s findings.

Says the company: “Over the past three years, South Africa has consistently been one of the most spammed countries in the world. For the first time in three years, spam calls in South Africa have decreased. Insurance and scam calls continue to be a big threat for consumers in South Africa.”

Looking closer at the trends in SA, Truecaller notes spam calls saw a 59% dive from March to April, in correlation with the lockdown in the country.

However, it adds, from April to October, there has been a 191% increase in spam calls. This reflects a surprising global trend that emerged this year, it explains.

Comparing the month of October with March, spam calls are at all-time high (17% higher than pre-lockdown).

From a global perspective, Truecaller notes the COVID-19 pandemic has directly and indirectly affected not only global economies and societies, but spammer behaviour.

“As the virus spread exponentially worldwide, spam calls started to decrease around March. Spam reached its lowest point in April when strict curfews and lockdowns were implemented worldwide.”

It adds that the overall volume of calls also dipped during this period. “However, from this point, reports of scammers taking advantage of the uncertainty around the pandemic emerged. In May, spam calls started to pick up again and have been increasing on average by 9.7% per month.”

October, with a record high in terms of spam calls, was 22% higher than the pre-lockdown period, the company says.

“This year’s trend, and the distribution of spam worldwide, shows that rather than mitigating spam, the pandemic only offered a brief respite to victims of scammers. And despite various countries re-entering lockdowns in the later part of 2020, this has not affected global spam rates negatively. If anything, spammers have now adjusted to a COVID world.”

Top trends

Brazil is still the most affected country when it comes to spam calls, with an increase of 9% compared to last year, says Truecaller.

It notes the US is now the second most spammed country in the world and has seen a 56% increase of spam calls compared to last year. This is a significant rise from last year’s position of eighth.

India, a country that used to receive the most spam calls in the world, has now dropped to ninth position.

Last year, the top 10 countries were dominated by the South American region. This year, Chile, Peru and Colombia have seen a decrease in spam calls.

A lot of European countries have surfaced on the list – Hungary, Poland, Spain, UK, Ukraine, Germany, Romania, Greece and Belgium. None of these countries were on the list last year.

The biggest increase of spam calls comes from Europe and the US – where Hungary has seen the biggest jump (1 132%), followed by Germany (685%), Belgium (557%) and Romania (395%).

Indonesia (18.3), India (16.8), Vietnam (14.7) and Russia (14.3) are the most affected countries in Asia.

Truecaller points out that an escalation of scam calls and robocalls around the world is expanding their share within the most common spam categories. Scammers are taking advantage of the pandemic to increase scam calls, it notes.

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