If you feel like the current volume of spam — unwanted junk advertising and scammer attempts — flooding your inbox, social media accounts, text streams and voicemail is at an all-time high, well, you’re not wrong.
What’s happening: Axios reports new data from spam-blocking app RoboKiller found nearly 12 billion spam texts were sent to U.S. cellphone users in March — a rate of nearly 42 texts for every person in the country. That volume is a huge jump from the 1 billion spam texts sent out in April 2021, according to RoboKiller data.
All that phone buzzing isn’t just from unsolicited texts, however. Robocall tracking by call protection app developer YouMail found that 4.4 billion robocalls were also made in March. That’s almost 141 million calls a day and 1,600 calls per second. Utah’s share of those March robocalls was 25.4 million or over 11 calls per person, according to YouMail.
“Just like with robocalls, it’s extremely easy to deploy (spam texts) in enormous volume and hide your identity,” Will Maxson, assistant director of the Federal Trade Commission’s division of marketing practices, told Axios. “There’s a large number of actors all over the world trying to squeeze spam into the network from almost an infinite number of entry points all the time.”
You’ve got (a lot of) mail: Earlier this year, the Washington Post reported more spam than usual appears to be getting through the automatic filters on some free email services, and particularly Google’s 18-year-old Gmail. According to cybersecurity firm Proofpoint, there has been a 30% increase in the volume of spam this past year across services. The company detected 10 billion additional spam messages in December alone.
The Post reports email spam comes in many forms but shares a trait — the senders are mostly out to access your money or information (which in turn can make spammers money).
Phishing emails are attempts to trick the recipient into handing over sensitive information, like a password or credit card number, and malware emails want you to download an attachment that will give the sender access to your computer. They aim to gather sensitive financial or personal information or launch something like a ransomware attack, per the Post’s reporting.
Now that computers are better at auto-updating to patch security holes, according to the Post, spammers are targeting people with social attacks, using techniques like impersonating real companies or people. They’re exploiting human weaknesses more than computer weaknesses.
“Because the attacks are social, I think they’re worse,” Chester Wisniewski, principal research scientist at security company Sophos, told the Washington Post. “There’s nothing I can put on your computer that’s going to help you not be tricked.”
What the surge is all about: Experts attribute the sharp increase in spam to the pandemic, according to Axios. And, people’s increased reliance on digital communications turned them into ready targets.
On that note, the Federal Communications Commission saw a nearly 146% increase in the number of complaints about unwanted text messages in 2020, per Axios. Americans reported losing $131 million to fraud schemes initiated by text in 2021, a jump over 50% from the year before, according to data from the FTC.