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Feeling spammed by SMS? That’s because you are

SMS may be dying for personal messaging, but new data from Truecaller reveals South Africans receive the second most SMS spam in the world, as businesses remain reliant.

SMS may be dying as a format for personal message, but it is enjoying a strong afterlife. Individuals have been able to make the switch from expensive SMS, costing up to 80c per message, to WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and other tools that cost a fraction of a cent in data charges.

However, businesses wanting to mass-message consumers still depend heavily on SMS. That is keeping the format alive and profitable for the mobile operators, but in turn becoming one of the biggest sources of spam experienced by individuals.

Call-screening service Truecaller has released findings from its Truecaller Insights report that show South Africans on average receive 114 spam SMS monthly, making them the second most spammed in the world.

The report is a look into the top 20 countries affected by both spam SMS and calls in 2019. The third edition of the report highlights that nuisance and unsolicited calls continue to be on the rise around the globe.  Last year, Brazil overtook India as the most spammed country in the world, and as this year’s data shows, Brazil is still on top.

South Africa is not far behind and is still ranking in as one of the most spammed countries in the world, the insights study has revealed that the 1.7 million daily active Truecaller app users receive a total of 25 spam calls monthly, a 20 percent increase from last year’s findings

This year Truecaller also looked at the trends of spam SMS around the world and have been able to pinpoint the top 20 countries that receive the most spam. The data shows that the top countries receiving the most spam via SMS are the emerging markets.

Ethiopians are receiving the highest number of spam SMS in the world, with an average of 119 spam SMS every month. South Africans come in second with a shocking average of 114 spam SMS received every month, on average a South African receives around 4 spam SMS’s each day.

In 2019, Truecaller helped identify 8.6 billion spam SMS globally. 

A closer look at spam calls in South Africa

Scam calls continue to be a big threat for consumers in South Africa (39%). The most common scams are:

  • Tech support fraud, where someone pretends to call from your bank or a company saying that your account has been hijacked and needs your help to take control of it.
  • One ring scam, an unknown number (usually an international number) gives you a missed call and when you call them back you get charged a hefty fee for calling to that number.
  • Job offer scam, someone pretends to be a headhunter calling you to offer you a job but you need to pay a fee in order to get the job.

Also, insurance-related calls have seen a big uptake in the country. Lately, there have been complaints about insurance companies calling people to upsell car insurance – or scammers calling and pretending that your car has been towed away and that you need to pay a fee to get it back. 

In 2019 Truecaller have helped their users block and identify 26 billion spam calls, which is an increase of 18% compared to last year. Furthermore, they have helped identify 116 billion unknown calls, a 56% increase compared to last year. 

What other trends we are seeing?

  • Who are the top 5 markets to receive the most scam related calls in the world? Malaysia (63%), Australia (60%), Lebanon (49%), Canada (48%), South Africa (39%).
  • Digging deeper into the bigger markets, Truecaller found common categories that tie all these spam calls together. The most prominent pattern seen was that operators across the world are the biggest spammers. Another pattern noted was that scam calls is on the rise globally, and spam calls from financial services is increasing.
  • Spam calls in Latin America have been increasing dramatically over the years. This year, the trend is even more clear. The countries that are seeing the biggest increase of spam calls are in Latin America. 5 out of the top 10 most affected markets are in that region.
  • Peru has seen a significant increase of spam calls. Users are now getting on average 30.9 spam calls a month, making Peru the 2ndmost spammed country in the world.
  • The biggest increase of total spam calls comes from Indonesia. Last year Indonesia was ranked 16th, and this year the market jumped up to 3rd place, which makes it the biggest jump we have seen.
  • The country that has witnessed the biggest increase of spam calls in percentage is Lebanon. Users in the market have seen an increase of spam calls going from 2.8 average spam calls/user to 8.6 – that is a 208% increase in a year.
  • Although India has dropped to the 5th place (India used to be the top spammed country in the world), spam calls have been increasing by 15% over the year. Another devastating fact we found during this year is that 1 out of 3 women in India receive sexual harassment or inappropriate calls and SMS on a regular basis.
  • The U.S. continues to be in the top 10 list of the most spammed countries in the world. The market saw a 7% increase of spam calls compared to last year, were it actually was decreasing. Earlier this year we conducted a study in the U.S. and found that phone scams caused Americans to lose 10.5 billion dollars in 2018, and nearly 1 in every 6 American adults falls victim to scam calls. Read more here:
  • New markets to enter our list: UAE, Australia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Lebanon, Nigeria and Egypt.
  • Telco/operators are still the biggest spammers in the world, and scam calls are on the rise globally.

The full report can be found here:

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