Robocalls ‘hijacking’ mobile numbers at an alarming rate; solutions could be coming soon

They’re hard to trace, but the fight against robocalls is beefing up as the number of calls in the U.S. continues to rise.

The rate at which robocalls are hijacking mobile numbers has more than doubled so far this year compared to 2018.

According to the 2019 First Half Robocall Investigation Report released by Reston-based telecommunications company Transaction Network Services (TNS), the percentage of calls originating from toll-free numbers more than doubled from 12% last year to 25% in 2019.

In all, there have been 200 million unwanted calls per day so far in 2019. That’s 30% of all calls in the U.S., according to TNS.

Robocalls also “hijack” legitimate numbers by falsifying where the call originated. This makes people receiving the calls more likely to answer, believing that the call is from a more trustworthy source.

The report found that the rate at which robocalls are hijacking mobile numbers has jumped from one in 4,000 in 2018 to one in 1,700 this year, forcing some people to disconnect their phones.

When it comes to taking on the problem, TNS said large carriers have been successful at identifying these calls, but smaller carriers must step up.

TNS reports that the top six U.S. carriers — AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — account for 70% of total calls so far this year, but only 12% of high-risk calls.

Bill Versen, chief product officer at TNS said robocallers may take advantage of smaller networks.

“The report suggests the need for diligence as the battlefront may shift to smaller regional and rural carriers,” Versen said.

TNS said a possible solution would be the implementation of software aimed at suppressing unwanted calls to consumers.

The company recently launched Call Guardian Authentication Hub, which allows carriers to use a call authentication solution that combats illegal spoofing and better protects subscribers from unwanted robocalls.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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