For most of us, the phone has been a lifeline during the pandemic. The same goes for scam artists.
In July, the number of robocalls to San Antonio phone numbers reached 8 million, up from 3.7 million in July of last year, according to Transaction Network Services, a company that analyzes robocall trends for telecom clients such as Verizon.
Robocalls — or calls where a recording rather than a live voice greets the person who picks up — are a preferred tool of scammers because they’re a cheap, quick and easy way to reach a large number of targets.
In recent months, robocallers posing as DEA agents have targeted San Antonio residents as part of an identity theft scam, according to TNS officials. A recording informs a call recipient their social security number has been stolen and offers a gift card if they provide personal information to fix the situation.
Jim Tyrell, TNS’s senior director of product marketing, said robocall numbers dropped this spring as COVID-19 forced the closure of call centers, including those that run scams. Since then, many of those boiler-room operations have reopened or learned how to work remotely.
“As that happened, we’re seeing an uptick in robocalls this summer,” Tyrell said.
The pandemic has also fueled new phone scams, Tyrell warned. Con artists have targeted Texans with calls offering COVID-19 cures, test kits and low-cost health insurance. The Federal Trade Commission has documented 5,000 coronavirus-related scams since the pandemic hit.
Tyrell recommended residents remain vigilant about their own phone interactions and also warn elderly family members and neighbors, who are frequent targets for fraud. TNS maintains an website that provides updates on recent scams to look out for.
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