Tag: Featured

If you thought you dodged the IRS scam this season, think again! Scammers are no longer disguising themselves as IRS agents but now have a new scheme, impersonating the Social Security Administration.

Contacting unsuspecting citizens across the U.S., or even spoofing numbers to look like the SSA, automated calls claim that due to fraudulent activity, a victim’s social security number will be suspended until the call is returned to verify the account. Scammers will make multiple attempts to catch a victim’s attention, using scare tactics as a final attempt. They threaten the victim that if they do not call back a federal agent will be contacting them.

While some citizens have made a point not to take the calls seriously, the FTC reported that in 2018 over 35,000 citizens reported the scam equating to about $10 million in losses.

“Sometimes, the scammer wants you to confirm your SSN to reactivate it. Sometimes, he’ll say your bank account is about to be seized – but he’ll tell you what to do to keep it safe. (Often, that involves putting your money on gift cards and giving him the codes – which, of course, means that your money is gone.),” reported the FTC.

To avoid becoming a victim of the Social Security Scam here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. If you receive a call about your Social Security being suspended and bank account being seized, it’s a hoax. The SSA will not request that you verify your number over the phone without you expecting their call.
  2. SSA will never call to put threatening that your benefits are in jeopardy. They will never request you wire money, send cash, or put money on gift cards.
  3. Despite your caller ID identifying a call to be the SSA, be aware that the official SSA number is 1-800-772-1213. If you receive, a call from the SSA or this number but are unsure if you are speaking with an official SSA agent, hang-up immediately and call SSA directly at 1-800-772-1213 to confirm you are speaking with an official SSA agent.
  4. Never give out your Social Security number, bank account information, or personal identification to unexpected callers.
  5. If you have been a victim or have received a call similar to the SSA scam, report it to the FTC and FCC to help raise awareness.
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Robocalls are making their way around the world! In Hiya’s first Global Robocall Radar Report, we’ve estimated that global spam calls have grown a whopping 325% to 85 billion worldwide. The report is based on an analysis of more than 12 billion calls per month worldwide, concluded that while unwanted calls are indeed very prevalent in the United States where regulators have taken notice, they are also growing rapidly at a global level. The report has pinpointed Spain, the UK, Italy, France, Argentina and the United States as the  countries who are the most affected by nuisance and fraudulent calls.

“As spam calls continue to skyrocket globally, the demand for protection from unwanted phone calls has increased drastically,” said Alex Algard, CEO of Hiya. “By combining industry-leading call spam detection with a solution that ensures calls from legitimate businesses are properly identified, it’s our mission to make sure everyone across the world can confidently answer their phone again.”

Hiya analyzes more than 12 billion mobile calls per month globally and then leverages its proprietary rule-based algorithm to identify these calls for consumers. Hiya’s Global Robocall Radar is calculated by extrapolating the total number of unwanted robocalls detected among Hiya’s user base as compared to the entire global population of mobile subscribers. In addition to observing that robocalls grew 325% to 85 billion in 2018, Hiya’s first Global Robocall Radar found the following:

Top 10 Countries With the Biggest Phone Spam Problem

For the top 10 countries with the biggest spam problem, below is a breakdown of the percentage of incoming calls that are not “saved to contacts” and are identified as spam (Spam Rate), in addition to the average number of monthly spam calls per user.

1). Spain:

  • Spam Rate: 24%
  • Monthly Spam Calls Per User: 9

2). UK:

  • Spam Rate: 22%;
  • Monthly Spam Calls Per User: 7

3). Italy:

  • Spam Rate: 21%
  • Monthly Spam Calls Per User: 6

4). France:

  • Spam Rate: 20%
  • Monthly Spam Calls Per User: 7

5). Argentina:

  • Spam Rate: 10%
  • Monthly Spam Calls Per User: 3

6). United States:

  • Spam Rate: 10%
  • Monthly Spam Calls Per User: 7

7). Mexico:

  • Spam Rate: 9%
  • Monthly Spam Calls Per User: 6

8). Brazil:

  • Spam Rate: 9%
  • Monthly Spam Calls Per User: 8

9). Chile:

  • Spam Rate: 9%
  • Monthly Spam Calls Per User: 4

10). Australia:

  • Overall Spam Rate: 6%;
  • Monthly Spam Calls Per User: 2

Most Prevalent Spam “Campaigns” Worldwide:

  • Bank Account Scam: Callers pretend to be an official representative of the bank and request sensitive information or items which will allow them to access the victim’s bank account.  
  • Extortion/Kidnapping: These scammers call random phone numbers and demand payment for the return of a “kidnapped” family member or friend.
  • Credit Card Scam: Thieves will trick victims out of their personal information. They might call, posing as their bank, to “assist” while phishing for card details. Random scammers might even call hotel rooms acting as the front desk to “confirm” credit card details.
  • Wangiri Scam (“One Ring”): For years, the Wangiri scam, also known as the ‘One-Ring Scam,’ has been preying on victims and enticing them to call back international numbers. The victim in this case does not realize that they’re being charged for premium rates.
  • Neighbor Scam: Phone fraudsters use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) software to mimic (also known as spoofing) the first few digits of a user’s phone number to trick consumers into thinking a nearby friend or business is calling.
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For years, the Wangiri scam, Japanese for ‘one ring and drop’ has been preying on unknowing mobile victims, enticing them to call back international numbers, ultimately charging them with premium rates.  

The Wangiri or “one-ring” scam originally appeared in the US in 2013. In years to follow, the scam hit a lull in the U.S. and expanded internationally to countries like Ireland, Scotland, and Germany, but just in the last three weeks, it’s made a recent comeback to the U.S. with a vengeance.

Originating from the West African Atlantic Coast, seconds before a victim can pick up the call, the culprit hangs up. In some instances, scammers will leave a message urging the victim to call a number to either receive a so-called raffle prize, or find out about a sick relative. If the victim calls back, they will be connected to an international hotline charging a connection fee, along with significantly high per-minute fees. Unfortunately, the victim doesn’t realize they’ve been scammed, until they see the premium services on their monthly phone bill.

In the first month of the new year, Hiya has seen a 300% increase in the Wangiri scam (since December) to our collective user base.

Top 10 Area Code Affected by the Wangiri Scam:

  1. (206) Seattle, WA
  2. (801) Salt Lake City, UT
  3. (575) Roswell, New Mexico
  4. (608) Madison, Wisconsin
  5. (205) Birmingham, Alabama
  6. (281) Houston, TX
  7. (309) Macomb, Illinois
  8. (336) Greensboro, North Carolina
  9. (419) Toledo, Ohio
  10. (469) Dallas, Texas

Thanks to our partnership with Samsung, Hiya is able to obtain insights into the spammer space outside the United States, which provides us with unique insights that we can apply to combat internationally based scams for our US-based partners. In the case of the Wangiri scam, we are able to leverage this context to determine where the scam is originating, what platforms they’re using to make the calls, and how we need to change our approach in order to effectively predict the scam.

Once we saw this activity, we introduced two new models into our spam prediction product that help identify Wangiri calls for our users. In addition to these two models, we’re also altering how we look at predictive features for this scam and will be rolling out additional protection from the Wangiri scam to our users in the near future.

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We’re excited to announce that Hiya has been awarded the 2019 Best Places to Work Award by Built in Seattle. Out of 2,000 companies under consideration, we placed in the Overall and Best Small Companies categories. The Built In Seattle Award recognizes businesses that go out of their way to provide employees with the support — both financial and non-financial — they need to thrive.

Built In Seattle’s Best Places to Work rates companies algorithmically based on compensation and employer benefits identified in their database. Compensation and benefits are weighted equally.

For benefits, they look at the offerings most important to their users and assign points to each benefit and perk. They look at the following categories and weigh them accordingly:

  1. Health & Wellness
  2. Financial Planning & Stability
  3. Flexible Work Environment
  4. Professional & Social Impact
  5. Perks & Discounts

At Hiya, people are our priority and we are proud of the top talent on our team. We’re always searching for talented individuals who believe in our vision. We are also building teams globally, authentic people who care deeply about collaboration and community and work hard to create an open and inclusive environment where everyone’s voice is heard.

Thank you for the recognition Built in Seattle!

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai did not take kindly to the lack of effort carriers had shown in his request to implement “robust caller ID authentication” by the end of the year.

With a number of companies dedicated to the effort to provide customers with better caller ID services, a number of them said they’d need more time than the end of the year to fully implement the request.

According to the Verge, in response, Pai released a statement today criticizing the responses from some of the companies. “It’s time for carriers to implement robust caller ID authentication,” Pai said in the statement. “Uniform adoption will help improve authentication throughout the network and make sure no consumer gets left behind.” If major carriers fail to implement a plan this year, the statement said, “the FCC will have to consider regulatory intervention.”

Putting a stop to the scourge of robocalls flooding citizens was Pai’s top priority when he became FCC Chairman.

“American consumers are sick and tired of unwanted robocalls, this consumer among them,” Paid said in the statement. “Caller ID authentication will be a significant step towards ending the scourge of spoofed robocalls.”

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As our phones continue to be inundated by robocalls, many people no longer want to pick up the phone at all. Unfortunately, this has led to important calls being missed, such as those from your doctor, your child’s school, the bank, and others.

In Hiya’s first State of the Call report, we provide insight into how Americans use their mobile phones on a monthly basis given the rise in robocalls. For example, based on a subset of 11 billion calls analyzed per month, we discovered that only 52 percent of calls Americans receive on their phones are picked up, which also means that almost half of calls are unanswered. Yet, in a surprising twist, 9 percent of calls that have been identified as spam are picked up, which is a staggering amount considering that, according to Hiya’s Robocall Radar Report, a total of 26.3 billion robocalls were made to American phones in 2018, up 46% from the previous year’s total of 18 billion.

Learn more about the key findings from the analysis which includes phone call behavior, call pick-up rates, call duration, and top calling industries by clicking the image below:

 

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Pushing forward to combat the scourge of robocalls in 2019, the FCC has made an announcement that they will be amending the Truth in Caller ID rules to extend to communications originating outside the U.S, including text messages and voice services.

Prior to the government shutdown on January 3, 2019, the FCC released a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, for the January 30, 2019 Open Meeting where they are expected to vote on issuing the notice. The notice would “implement new FCC rules and definitions designed to deter malicious caller identification spoofing. The proposed rules are intended to update current FCC Truth in Caller ID rules to reflect Congress’ recent enactment of Section 503 of the RAY BAUM’S Actthat modified section 227(e) of the Communications Act as well as to “expand and clarify the prohibition on misleading or inaccurate caller identification information,”” reported the National Law Review.

The goal of the proposed rule change if adopted, would target spoofed calls and texts “with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.”

According to the FCC the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Would do the following:

• Propose changes to the FCC’s current Truth in Caller ID rules by largely tracking the language of the RAY BAUM’S Act statutory amendments. These proposed changes include: o extending the reach of the Commission’s current Truth in Caller ID rules to include covered communications originating from outside the United States to recipients within the United States; and o expanding the scope of covered communications services to include text messages and additional voice services.

• Seek comment on new or revised definitions of the following terms for purposes of section 227(e) of the Communications Act: “text message,” “text messaging service,” “voice service,” “caller identification information,” and “caller identification service.”

• Seek comment on any other changes to the FCC’s Truth in Caller ID rules necessary to effectuate Congress’ intent in amending section 227(e).

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Whether it be back, leg, shoulder, or anything that is chronically painful, be on guard! Scammers are targeting New York residents claiming they can fix your chronic pain with so-called support from Medicare and Medicaid.

Coming through to victims as spoofed robocalls, local police are warning residents that the calls are not local and the callers convincing individuals to hand over personal information.

“The New York State Attorney General’s office also investigates/advises the public regarding possible telephone scams. If you believe that you’ve received a fraudulent telemarketing solicitation or if you believe you are a victim of telemarketing fraud, you can call the attorney general’s consumer hotline for assistance,” reported the Rome Sentinel.

Here how you can avoid being a victim:
1) Never provide personal or financial information over the phone to an unexpected caller.
2) Hang-up immediately if you do not recognize or were not expecting the call. Confirm the call by calling the organization directly and inquiring about the request.
3) Do not call back an unknown number as it may confirm that your number is in use, resulting in your number being placed on a list that may repeatedly call back through an auto-dialer system.

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Check out this week’s victim:

Wisconsin residents living in the 262 area code

Top 10 Cities:
1) West Bend
2) Brookfield
3) Menomonee Falls
4) Kenosha
5) Caledonia
6) New Berlin
7) Racine
8) Waukesha
9) Muskego
10) Mequon

Growth since January 2018 to Present:

Fraud Calls – 59%


Nuisance Calls – 690%

Top 3 Scams Hitting 262 Residents:

Medical Brace Scam: Scammers target Medicare patients and offer free knee braces from Medicare. They claim to be referred from a victim’s doctor or caregiver and identify themselves as a representative from Medicare or a medical warehouse. They then request the victim to share their Medicare number and personal information to receive the so-called free brace.

Car Warranty Scam: During the call – which often begins automated or pre-recorded the victim may be instructed to press a certain number or stay on the line, then asked to provide personal information, which potentially can be used to defraud the victim. The scammer may have specific information about the victim’s car and warranty that they use to deceive them into thinking they are a legitimate caller.

Amazon Recruiting Scam: Scammers are contacting victims about a work-at-home job opportunity at Amazon. The so-called opportunity would allow the individual to work using her computer for Amazon and would compensate them $500 for only working a couple hours. They’re then directed to a website at amzjobs.org or other renditions of the site. Unfortunately, this is not a legitimate site as Amazon’s official site is Amazon.jobs.

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This week we’re not bringing you one but two area codes that have been targeted by fraud and nuisance calls in the U.S.

Check out this week’s victims:

Taking the title for top area code targeted by fraud calls  are Nevada residents living in the 775 area code.

Top Cities include:

  1. Pahrump
  2. Carson City
  3. Sparks
  4. Reno

Growth since January 2018 to Present:

Fraud Calls – 742%

As for nuisance calls, Massachusetts residents living in the 339 area code saw a sudden spike in the unwanted calls.

Top 10 Cities include:

  1. Medford
  2. Braintree
  3. Waltham
  4. Lynn
  5. Malden
  6. Wellesley
  7. Stoneham
  8. Wakefield
  9. Lexington
  10. Winchester

Growth since January 2018 to Present:

Nuisance Calls – 1707%

Top 3 Scams hitting 775 and 339 Residents:

Credit Card Rate Scam: Some credit card scammers will tell the victim they are from the victim’s credit card company and they ask them to confirm or give up some personal information, e.g. your credit card number, credit card security code, social security number, or mother’s maiden name. After the call ends, the caller uses the information the victim gave to make charges on their account or to create a new account in your name.

Marriott Hotel Offer: Scammers lure in victims by informing them that they’ve won an all-expense paid hotel stay at the premium brand hotel. Unfortunately, when the scammers requests for personal and financial information to “redeem” the stay, in reality they use the information to access the victim’s accounts.

Medical Brace Scam: Scammers target Medicare patients and offer free knee braces from Medicare. They claim to be referred from a victim’s doctor or caregiver and identify themselves as a representative from Medicare or a medical warehouse. They then request the victim to share their Medicare number and personal information to receive the so-called free brace.

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