On September 12, 2018, First Orion claimed that by the end of 2018, 29% of phone calls to mobile phones will be “scam calls”, and that they expect this number to rise to almost 50% by early 2019. This sensational claim has received extensive media coverage, despite the numerous problems with it. As the CEO of a company that has extensive insights into this space and that is focused on the positives of the mobile calling experience, I feel a responsibility to set the story straight, because I think it is bogus.
First, the reported statistics are way off what we have observed. At Hiya, scam calls to our collective user base amount to less than 4% of mobile calls made to consumers in the US. Some people receive a lot more scam calls than that, but that is the average in the US. We have extensive data to back this number up. While we have observed an ongoing increase in scam calls, we don’t see that they would rise to more than 6% of calls by the same early 2019 time frame. If another vendor in our industry genuinely believes that nearly 50% of calls will be scam calls within the next few months, I can only conclude that their overzealous scam call filters are running amok, resulting in legitimate calls being incorrectly blocked (which would create a whole new problem for their customers to deal with).
Furthermore, there is a significant difference between “scam” calls versus “nuisance” calls. Calls for telemarketing, fundraising, and elections campaigns may be a nuisance, but they are not “scam” calls. A scam caller is a fraudster who rips off consumers. If you call a law abiding business a “scam”, you can bet they will be upset. Hiya has observed that approximately 11% of all calls are what we call “unwanted”, and this percentage includes both “nuisance” and “scam” calls. Less than only half of that 11% are “scam” calls. First Orion only reports on “scam” calls and does not mention nuisance calls, which not only makes for scarier sounding headlines, but begs the question whether they understand this critical distinction themselves? At Hiya, we believe that it is not only wrong to blur the terminology, but it is in fact our responsibility to educate the industry and the media on the differences between “scam” and “nuisance” calls.
You may wonder, why would we at Hiya refute these recent headlines? As a solution provider against unwanted phone calls, don’t we stand to benefit? In short, no. I am leading Hiya to play a long game to cement ourselves as a trusted vendor to the global mobile industry. We are 100% committed to making the mobile calling experience great together with our partners. If facts get distorted, wrong decisions will be made, and that is bad for our industry. Don’t get me wrong. Nuisance calls, and especially scam calls, are a huge issue that needs to be solved, but we don’t need misleading headlines to make that case.