Only 10% of scam and fraud robocalls come from Tier 1 carriers, says TNS

When TNS refers to Tier 1 carriers, it’s counting AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. (Getty Images)

Just 10% of “high risk” robocalls originate from Tier 1 carriers, according to Transaction Network Services (TNS), which just released its March 2019 Robocall Report.

TNS categorizes scam and fraud robocalls as high risk. And when it refers to Tier 1 carriers, it’s counting the top six U.S. carriersAT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

While these carriers account for 75% of total call volume, most scam and fraud robocalls are likely not originating from phone numbers owned by any of them. Rather, the study found that the overwhelming majority of these calls are coming from smaller, non-Tier 1 networks.

The report is based on data drawn from over 1 billion daily calls made with hundreds of different carriers. It examines trends in high-risk robocalls, in which scammers attempt to fraudulently acquire personal and financial information from call recipients. It also analyzes “nuisance” robocalls, which do not originate from malicious intent or negligent noncompliance, but are bothersome nonetheless.

While the report found that nuisance calls had increased by 13% in one year, fraud and scam calls had actually decreased by 18% in the same period. This suggests that the combination of telecommunications industry efforts and high FCC fines are having the desired effect.

Bill Versen, chief product officer at TNS, said that he expected increased success in stemming these calls with the widespread implementation of the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN) standards.

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“Our 2019 report finds glimmers of hope for the year ahead with a decrease in high risk robocall volume, a trend that can continue with carrier deployment of STIR/SHAKEN, further FCC and FTC enforcement actions, and more innovative robocall detection and blocking solutions available to consumers and businesses,” Versen said in a statement.

Additional key findings from the TNS report:

  • Consumers are increasingly receiving spoofed calls that appear on their smartphone display to come from legitimate customer care numbers. More than two-thirds of the calls from legitimate toll-free numbers are identified as nuisance or high-risk.
  • 1 in 4,000 mobile numbers are now being hijacked by robocall spoofers every month, which is causing 20% of people who have had their number hijacked to disconnect their phone number.
  • Spammers are spreading spoofed calls over several telephone numbers in low volume, then rapidly churning through them to evade detectiona tactic known as snowshoe spamming.