South Africa’s worst spamming culprits

Spam calls in South Africa are at an all time high, according to call screening group, Truecaller.

Truecaller has published its latest insights on the countries most affected by spam calls, with South Africa dropping down the rankings quite significantly – from 6th most spammed in 2019, to 17th in 2020.

By volume, spam calls in the country have actually decline for the first time in three years – but that doesn’t mean spammers have given up. In fact, things are worse than ever, Truecaller said.

“Looking closer at the trends in South Africa, spam calls saw a 59% dive from March to April, in correlation to the lockdown in the country,” it said.

“However, from April to October there has been a 191% increase of spam calls. This reflects a surprising global trend that emerged this year.”

Comparing the month of October with March, spam calls are at all-time high – 17% higher than pre-lockdown.

Insurance companies are the worst offenders in South Africa when it comes to spamming marketing and cold calls, with the second biggest group bombarding people being scammers.

This is followed by financial services providers, network operators and debt collectors. Telemarketers only make up 5% of spam calls in the country, Truecaller said.

Spamming trends followed the global Covid-19 pandemic quite closely: dipping when national lockdowns were in effect, and rebounding when economies opened up again.

“The Covid-19 pandemic directly and indirectly affected not only global economies and societies, but spammer behaviour. As the virus spread exponentially worldwide, spam calls started to decrease around March,” Truecaller said.

Given Truecaller’s analysis doesn’t contain data points from the spammer’s perspective, it said it is difficult to attribute this to any one factor. However, the group said that the beginning of quarantines and curfews, which limited access to certain equipment and technologies, certainly had a role in this.

“With society ‘paused’, even the scammers took a break,” it said.

Spam reached its lowest point in April, when strict curfews and lock downs were implemented worldwide. The overall volume of calls also dipped during this period.

“However, from this point, reports of scammers taking advantage of the uncertainty around the pandemic emerged. In May, spam calls started to pick up again and have been increasing on average by 9.7% per month. October, with a record high in terms of spam calls, was 22.4% higher than the pre-lockdown period.”

Truecaller said that the year’s trend, and the distribution of spam worldwide, shows that rather than mitigating spam, the pandemic only offered a brief respite to victims of scammers.

“Despite various countries re-entering lockdowns in the latter part of 2020, this has not affected global spam rates negatively. If anything, spammers have now adjusted to a Covid world.”

Over the course of the year, Truecaller said it has blocked and identified 31.3 billion spam calls – an increase of 18% compared to last year – and helped identify 145.4 billion unknown calls – a 25% increase compared to last year.

Brazil is still the most affected country when it comes to spam calls, with an increase of 9% compared to last year.

The US is now the second most spammed country in the world, and has seen a 56% increase of spam calls compared to last year. This is a significant rise from last year’s position of 8th.

India, a country that used to receive the most spam calls in the world, has now dropped to 9th position.

Read: South Africa has one of the highest spam rates in the world – here’s how many calls we’re getting every month

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South Africa’s worst spamming culprits