Rise of the Cellphone Scammer

If you don’t have some quality caller ID on your cell, it might be time to armor up. The sheer quantity of scam phone calls has skyrocketed this year and is giving no indication of slowing down.

First Orion, a large software firm specializing in providing phone carriers (and their customers) with caller ID and call blocking capabilities, reported that the number of incoming calls designated as spam leaped from 3.7% of all calls in 2017 to nearly 30% so far this year.

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If current trends continue Orion projects the number of crank calls will be around 45% which (obviously) translates to half of all your calls being total crap; unless of course, you’re some sick animal who enjoy talking to solicitors.

Personally, I’ve always been a fan of text anyway, but this is bad news for phone carriers who only have to look to their now decrepit landline ancestors (and more importantly their steadily shrinking market shares) to see where this could head. With younger generations of consumers constantly evolving in terms of preferences and products (remember writing letters? Or AOL?) for communication it’s not as crazy to contemplate the doom of cell phones as it might initially seem.

Of course, for the immediate term, the people in the equation left holding the short straw are of course the consumers. It’s essentially a factual statement in 2018 that you need a cell phone to function substantially in contemporary developed economies; so much so that the government even deemed them a necessity (if you’ll recall the infamous ‘Obama phones’). So, it’s less than welcome news for customers already paying extortionate bills for cell service that they’ll be spending their days sifting through calls from Nigeria to find that voicemail from their boss.

From IRS impersonators to banking fraudsters the world was already fraught enough with pathetic attempts from low effort ne’er-do-wells in the email inboxes and home message machines of the public; so, it’s fairly demoralizing to hear that we’ll have to contend with bogus legal claims from Indians while trying to find Mom’s messages on our mobile devices too.

Caller ID isn’t even the bulwark it once was with the scammers that enjoy a degree of ingenuity finding increasingly convincing ways to say, mimic the IRS pretty darn well, or appear to be calling from your local area (a practice known as neighborhood spoofing).

With the quantity and quality of cell phone spammers apparently escalating fairly rapidly, one has to wonder what countermeasures service providers and their contractors, like First Orion, will seek to take to combat the epidemic and, more importantly for their shareholders, maintain relevancy as a favored medium of communication among consumers.

Email rose to the occasion to stay in the game by combatting criminal communicators with screening technology and the familiar ‘spam folder’. It doesn’t seem particularly wildly unfeasible for cell service providers to do the same. Seeing as the FCC allows carriers to block ‘potentially illegal’ calls there at least appears to be legal means, if not practical components yet in place, for it to be done. They’ll be forced to something either way; if half of calls eventually become unwanted, they’ll be facing a serious problem in terms of infrastructure burden all customer considerations aside.

With individual actors now able to use automated call systems to send literally hundreds of millions of unwanted solicitations with relatively few invested resources, the cause of the explosive increases is hardly enigma; but it seems at this point solutions are needed more than anything and that unfortunately thus far has been lacking, even with companies like First Orion leading the fight.

I suppose the good news is if you’re cripplingly lonely you can least reasonably start to expect some calls from your favorite fraudsters from Florida on special occasions.


  1. Jean

    I have a blocker on my phone for this very thing. If the number is not in the contacts, straight to voice mail without even a jingle. Ahh, silence is golden. LOL

  2. Lowell Freeman

    We already have a solution if it was enforced. It’s called the “national do not call registry”. Start fining people and locking them up and it will stop.

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