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Report: Phone fraud spikes globally, up 375% in Puerto Rico in Q2

Phone fraud on a country-by-country basis reached new heights in the second quarter of 2023, according to the third edition of the Global Call Threat Report, published by voice security firm Hiya. The report showed that between the first and second quarters, the phone fraud rate increased 375% in Puerto Rico.

“In the second quarter of 2023, Hiya observed 6.5 billion suspected spam calls worldwide. That’s more than 70 million calls every day,” the report highlighted. It defines spam as fraud and nuisance calls.

Hiya detected some scams utilizing a “shotgun” method, bombarding Amazon users with numerous robocalls, while others pinpointed specific groups such as immigrants or senior citizens.

In the April-June quarter, out of Puerto Rico’s approximated 810,000 total incoming calls, 15.7% were marked as spam – the lowest in the Americas. Out of these, 690,000, or 85.6%, were categorized as nuisance calls, with the rest deemed fraudulent.

“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,” the report explained.

Among the Americas, Puerto Rico’s fraudulent call rate stood at 5.7%, only surpassed in its low rate by the U.S. mainland with 1.3% and Peru with 0.6%. The highest affected in the region was Argentina at 31%, then Mexico (17%), Brazil (9.4%), Chile (8.9%) and Canada (6.3%).

While the total number of spam calls – both fraudulent and nuisance – declined from Q1, Hiya’s analysis discovered a rise in fraudulent call rates in 30 out of 39 studied countries in Q2. Leading this surge were Puerto Rico, the Czech Republic and Australia.

Q2 showed phone fraud rate spikes of 375% for Puerto Rico, 177% for the Czech Republic and 170% for Australia. Completing the top 10 were India (164%), Israel (155%), Poland (145%), New Zealand (144%), Indonesia (137%), Singapore (116%) and Slovakia (83%).

A handful of countries saw their phone fraud rates decline in Q2, with Austria leading the decrease at -33%, followed by the UK (-28%) and Portugal (-9%). Greece, Sweden and Canada witnessed no change.

The Global Call Threat Report gauges suspected spam call volume and rate across more than 36 nations. The data stem from calls observed in Q2 2023 on the Hiya Voice Security Network, which includes Samsung Smart Call enabled devices and the Hiya mobile app.

Phone fraud remains a global issue
While Hiya detected a slight decrease in global phone spam instances from Q1 (6.7 billion) to Q2 (6.5 billion), it observed a weekly average of 500 million phone spam calls in Q2 ( around 70 million per day), peaking at 550 million during the week of April 10.

In the U.S., where the telecom sector is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, one out of every four Q2 calls from a non-contact was flagged as “suspected spam.” Prevalent scams included Venmo-related fraud, impersonation of family members and a resurgence of auto warranty scams, which took a sharp dive in mid-2022.

Though Canadians received fewer Q2 spam calls than Americans, they faced a higher fraud percentage: 6.3% against the U.S.’s 1.3%. Popular scams in Canada in Q2 involved impersonation of family, government officials and Amazon.

In Q2, the UK’s non-contact call spam rate stood at 28%. A third of these were fraudulent, making it Europe’s highest fraud proportion. Regular scams involved Amazon, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, and impersonation of family members.

Spain and France had the highest rates of unwanted calls in Europe in Q2. Spain’s spam rate was 44.9% and France’s rate was 42.5%. What’s more, Spain had the second-highest rate of fraud in Europe. Bank scams were popular in both Spain and France.

In the Asia-Pacific region, spam rates in Indonesia and Hong Kong topped 50%.

For the first time, Hiya’s report included U.S. state data. Oklahoma, although the 28th most populous state, had the highest U.S. spam rate, almost 25%. Oklahomans received roughly 12 monthly spam calls in Q2. Following Oklahoma were Texas (24%), Ohio (24%), Indiana (24%) and Missouri (23%).

However, for fraud calls, Connecticut led in Q2, succeeded by California and Ohio. In these states, more than 1% of unwanted calls were fraudulent, the report showed.

Several of the countries featured in Hiya’s Q2 report experienced an increase in scams where fraudsters impersonated family members. While Hiya users have not reported AI-generated family member scams, news reports have appeared in the U.S., Canada, and the UK.

“AI voice-generated scams are very likely the model of the future and we expect to find more and more evidence going forward,” said Kush Parikh, Hiya’s president. “To address this emerging tactic, carriers must implement stronger voice security solutions to protect their subscribers.”

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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