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1 Billion Nuisance Calls Made to People in the UK in 2021

Monday, May 10th, 2021 (12:56 pm) - Score 3,112
smartphone with incoming call from unknown person

New data from caller ID verification firm Hiya has reported that over 1 billion nuisance calls (e.g. silent calls, spam or frauds) have been made to people in the United Kingdom in 2021 so far and, more worrying perhaps, nuisance call volumes are currently increasing at a rate of 30% every month.

At present, nuisance call volumes are up 308% year-on-year since March 2020 and there have already been a total of 435.4 million calls so far this month. Just to put all this into some context, the first quarter of 2021 alone equals 56% of the 2020 full-year total.

The reason for this is that the spammers, many of which are based in other countries outside of Europe, have now learned to adapt to the pressures that COVID-19 had put on them (closing call centres during lockdown etc.). Now those dodgy call centres have largely transitioned to remote work – meaning that nuisance calling has been able to shoot back up.

Speaking of the pandemic, disinformation and COVID-19 related spam is now the 7th most common form of nuisance call. At the moment, around 2 million people in the 80+ age group have yet to sign themselves up for a COVID-19 vaccination despite being in the most vulnerable age category. The NHS need to be able to contact those who have not signed-up yet to encourage them to get inoculated – as only 43.6% of over-75s regularly use the internet, voice is the key communications channel for this demographic.

Yet as the prevalence of nuisance calling increases, the Hiya data indicates that 94% of unidentified calls went unanswered in 2020 and 85% of respondents indicated they are concerned that unidentified calls might be fraudulent (i.e. spam calling is discouraging end-users from answering their calls).

The Most Common UK Forms of Nuisance Calls

1. Tax Scams

For example, the most common call claims there’s an arrest warrant out in the victim’s name for tax fraud.

2. NIN Scams

For example, Call claims that an individual’s NIN will be suspended and to press 1 to talk more.

3. Retail Scam

4. Royal Mail Scam

For example, call requests user to contact phone number to collect parcel / pay customs charges

5. Utility Scam/Spam

6. Credit Card Spoof/Personal Banking Scam

7. COVID Scams, includes:

Demanding payment for covid test results.

People falsely representing themselves as from NHS collecting info for covid but are actually reselling info to life insurance cos (illegal lead-gen).

Offer of covid-relief grants.

8. Auto Warranty Scam/Spam

Obviously Hiya has a vested interest in this field, but in fairness they are currently offering their ID verifications services for free to all NHS organizations involved in the vaccine rollout. The data also broadly chimes with what Ofcom witnessed as part of a recent update to their joint plan for tackling nuisance and scam calls (here).

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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23 Responses
  1. Avatar photo a welshman says:

    i have caller display and if i don’t recognise a number i dont answer it and let the answering machine kick in, if its important they can leave a message ,if not i just block it

  2. Avatar photo Neb says:

    Wonder how much CO2e that amounts to?
    Do the scammers tend use VOIP?

    1. Avatar photo GNewton says:

      @Neb: From our experience, we never had any spam calls on our VOIP line, unlike an other PSTN line.

    2. Avatar photo New_Londoner says:

      I think the issue is that many of the calls may originate via VOIP.

    3. Avatar photo Phil says:

      @GNewton Same here, in 10 years on two landline numbers provided by Sipgate never had a single unsolicited call, perhaps a couple of wrong numbers and that’s it. It is because the number ranges for local code VoIP numbers (at least from Sipgate) are outside the normal published ranges, so automated diallers don’t tend to reach them.

      Hopefully when PTSN is switched off and all calls are routed via VoIP, it will be easier to detect SPAM calls and block them.

  3. Avatar photo Anthony Goodman says:

    TrueCall. It costs £100 for the machine but its worth it. In the 4 years I have had it I have only had (literally) two spammers actually be bothered to press the number 1 to try and leave a message to get through to me and then both times I just didn’t push it my side so they never got to speak to me. I see the logs each day and it says multiple people ring but give up everytime.

  4. Avatar photo Optimist says:

    I’d be interested to know what data sources Hiya uses to support its claims.

    1. Avatar photo Jack says:

      There’s millions of Samsung mobiles that have this built-in so that’s a useful chunk of data

    2. Avatar photo AQX says:

      I’ve used Hiya for years, usually it requires someone answering the call and then later reporting it if it’s a scam. Unfortunately through the drawback is that occasionally legitimate numbers get blocked by idiots. Example being when I was expecting a callback from Virginmedia, to my surprise they did actually call but someone previously reported it as spam (probably spam called from Sales) and due to that it was blocked. I reported it and they removed it within a day. But it is mostly crowdsourced.

    3. Avatar photo Neil says:

      > Unfortunately through the drawback is that occasionally legitimate numbers get blocked by idiots.

      Thanks to CLI spoofing, the recipient “idiot” in this case may have reported a scam/spam call presenting a CLI assigned to Virgin’s team. To them, it would have been a valid thing to report. The problem isn’t necessarily “idiot” users, but also weaknesses in ensuring legitimate use of presentation numbers / CLI overwriting.

    4. Avatar photo AQX says:

      @Neil – that may be true too, however I’d be more inclined to believing that Virgin were phoning certain customers constantly to try get them upgrading and they’ve reported the number spam. CLI spoofing may have played a part too but it would be risky spoofing an 0345 number as most people ignore those anyway.

  5. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

    Yet our government continues to send Millions of pounds in aid to India every year……

    1. Avatar photo New_Londoner says:

      How is aid intended to help people avoid starvation etc relevant to a story about nuisance calls?

    2. Avatar photo JmJohnson says:

      In defense of Buggerlugz.
      Remember India has a space program etc… maybe they should look at their priorities.

    3. Avatar photo yeehaa says:

      While I get and agree with your point @JmJohnson, when you say “their priorities” we need to remember it isn’t the poor citizens of India making those decisions, but rather the Government. Of course it’s another debate on whether UK taxpayers money should or shouldn’t be spent on aid programmes.

      It’s okay though. The likes of Jim Browning, Kitboga, ScammerRevolts etc. will sort out the problem of Indian scam call centres soon enough. 🙂

    4. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Aid programmes are not just about charity and food, they can also be about securing strategic interests for the UK and development of new technologies. Aid covers a lot of different aspects, but it has little relevance to this story.

  6. Avatar photo The Numbertaker says:

    I get all of them on vodafone. The HMRC scams, the microsoft scams, the accident scams.
    I get zero on my EE contract. I called vodafone and they said there’s nothing they can do about it and I just have to block them all one by one. But the number that calls me changes each time, and since they can spoof them anyway who knows if that’s even their real number

    1. Avatar photo John H says:

      On my android phone I use the ‘Should I answer’ App, most get blocked as these have been reported by other users. Only the new numbers get through and then I report them on the app so other users get it blocked.

    2. Avatar photo timeless says:

      truecaller is the app l use, very rarely do l get spam calls.

  7. Avatar photo Michael V says:

    My mother has finally disconnected the house phone it was every few days. Someone claiming to be from Openreach & automated messages from Amazon. But it was just too much.

    The very few I get on my phone I just block & select report. Google makes it easy to do it.

    It’s so wrong how people think this is ok to call people.

  8. Avatar photo Bill says:

    “They are offering their id verification services for free”

    Hmmm. Sounds like an excellent way to get access to a lot of id information.

    No one should believe statistics from those with vested interests.

  9. Avatar photo MilesT says:

    There really needs to be more legislation and regulation to control this (and yes it can be controlled better)
    1/ Make unsolicited sales calls illegal (like they are in Germany), with a quick way to report (moneymaker for ICO maybe)
    2/ Regulation to require better control of CLI data–verification on origination and pass through. If the call comes from a country/service where CLI can’t be trusted as genuine (e.g. many VoIP operators) then drop the CLI, maybe refuse the call alltogether.
    3/ ditto for text message origination, verify the sender details.

  10. Avatar photo Jamie says:

    Only one billion, I feel like I get that many calls myself! they are such a nusense. I find sites like http://www.whocalledyou.co.uk have made things easier for me (not having to answer calls but search them first then call back).

Comments are closed

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