Scam calls hit a new high in the US this year

Call From an Unknown Number
(Image credit: Ronstik / Shutterstock)

Scam calls continue to be a major annoyance for mobile users in the US with T-Mobile reporting that it identified or blocked over 21bn of them in 2021 alone.

The US telecom has released its first year-end Scam and Robocall Report revealing that scam call traffic hit all-time highs this year and jumped by over 116 percent when compared to 2020.

In addition to being the number one complaint to the FCC, scam call attempts are clocking in at an average of 425m per week. This is why T-Mobile launched its Scam Shield last year to protect all of its customers against scammers regardless of their mobile plan without requiring them to use a special device or app.

President of T-Mobile's consumer group, Jon Freier provided further details on the company's Scam Shield and how it's working to protect mobile users from spam calls in a press release, saying:

“Attempted scam calls hit record highs in 2021, but with Scam Shield we are identifying or blocking an average 1.8 billion calls each month — or 700 calls per second! — for our T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers. We are the only provider protecting every single customer with the free scam-fighting tools in Scam Shield, regardless of their plan or device. We know that scammers won’t stop as long as they continue to be successful, so we are doing everything we can to make their job as hard as possible. Scam Shield leverages T-Mobile’s powerful network to help keep our customers protected in real time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” 

Higher volume and more aggressive

Although many scammers were forced to shutdown their operations last year, they came back in full force in 2021 and continued to get more aggressive as the year progressed. 

In fact, the number of scam calls doubled in volume this year. In January of 2021, T-Mobile identified 1.1bn calls as Scam Likely. However, by November, the volume of scam calls had increased exponentially to reach 2.5bn calls identified as Scam Likely.

Another interesting takeaway from T-Mobile's report is that scammers like to take it easy on the weekends resulting in an 80 percent drop in calls identified as Scam Likely from Monday-Friday to over the weekends. At the same time, scammers are also taking holidays off with Easter of 2021 having the lowest volume of scam calls for the entire year.

When it came to the most targeted regions in the US, Texas, Florida, Arizona and Georgia had the highest volume of scam calls with Dallas/Fort Worth being the most targeted metro area. Additionally, fake vehicle warranties were the number one scam attempt this year though other popular ones included pretending to be with the Social Security office (10%), wireless provider (9%), car insurance company (6%), or package delivery (4%).

Scam calls have been a nuisance for far too long and hopefully the FCC will work together more closely with mobile carriers next year to limit their volume and prevent unsuspecting users from falling victim to fraud or even identity theft.

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Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.