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Scam of the Month 2022: A Year in Review

Phone scams come in all different shapes and sizes. Each variation is another attempt to infiltrate your defenses and procure your information. Fraudsters attempt every trick in the book and are willing to use deception to steal your assets. It is no wonder that we have seen an exorbitant amount of unique scam calls in 2022.


Let’s take a look back at some of this year’s major scams for a little refresher on scammers' strategies and the risks they present.


The Eavesdropping Scam


Scammers are getting smarter and are using more cunning tactics to gather your personal information. To pull off the eavesdropping scam the bad actor must combine deception with a knowledge of human curiosity; when the fraudsters call they will often have a fake conversation as a voicemail. For example, saying “I know, I know I’m trying to get in touch with them right now!” on the call to make it seem as though the call you missed was legitimate. This can help ensure a callback.


  • Hiya noticed a rapid spike from its inception throughout 2022
  • Accounted for 30% of all scam calls at its peak
  • 90% of the phony voicemails were captured by the Hiya Honeypot

The Auto Warranty Scam


You get a call from an unknown number and you can't help but pick up. It could be something important. But as soon as you pick up you hear:


“Hi, this is Susie calling with the vehicle service department. We are calling about your vehicle's manufacturer’s warranty. This is a courtesy call to renew your warranty before we close the file.”


But you live in the city and have never even owned a car…all signs point to a scam. 


The auto warranty scam is an incredibly popular method of infiltrating the voice channel. Bad actors know that a car is a major investment and will use that information to try and circumvent your defenses.


  • 2.5% of the over 11 million calls received were related to the auto warranty scam
  • The average pickup rate of a successfully connected scam call lands around 20%
  • A connected call has an average call duration of approximately 5 minutes


The Credit Card Scam


In May we took a look at one of the most popular phone scams affecting the voice channel: the credit card scam. Credit cards are an incredibly common and effective way of making day-to-day transactions. We all need those points, right?


Credit cards are everywhere - saved in our phones and web browsers - which makes them especially vulnerable to fraud. Bad actors will use numerous opportunities to achieve a breach of privacy - including tricking you over the phone.


  • The scam’s popularity peaked in April 2022
  • Half a billion calls were collected during this time
  • 2.5% of these calls were flagged as a credit card scam


IRS and Tax Scams


As the last dregs of winter fade away we are reminded that tax season is on the way. This is the time of year when the paperwork gets finished, accounts get organized, and scammers start scamming. These bad actors know that tax season can be incredibly anxiety-inducing; they attack your voice channel while you are most financially vulnerable and exposed.


  • Fiduciary spam calls peaked during April and May of 2022
  • The highest spike of potential  tax scam calls hit just under 6 million
  • This IRS scam call sample size reached a pickup rate of over 20%


Student Loan Scams


Speaking of financial vulnerability, look no further than the student loan scam. Debt from higher education can really stick with you; high-interest rates coupled with monthly payments can make you feel like you are running in circles. 


As more and more institutions are finding solutions to this growing problem, scammers are ready to take advantage of that hope and use it as an opportunity for fraud. Check out this bad actor doing the best they can to get a callback:


“Hi, this is Josh Mather from student loan support. Our records indicate that you are eligible for student loan forgiveness programs but never completed the required documents. Please call 866-555-5555 to fill out the necessary forms.” 

Utility Scam


Utilities, and their maintenance, is a year-round engagement; regardless of the temperature, weather, or climate - you will need someone to fix your pipes. When dealing with delivery, home services, or repairs, communication is key and a safe voice channel is crucial. 


Bad actors know the sensitivity of utility bills and will use this knowledge to infiltrate the voice channel; they will do whatever it takes to get a callback or any bit of information.

  • These scams come in many varieties, the most popular of which is an electricity scam
  • Over 8,000 utility scam calls were captured during the heatwave of August 2022
  • The average global call duration of a successful scam can reach heights of 9 minutes


Healthcare Scam


Winter is on its way and it coincides with cold and flu season. People are often seeing their doctors at a higher rate and expecting calls or check-ins from their healthcare providers. These calls are targeted by bad actors doing whatever they can to get your information. Whether it is a voicemail asking for a callback or an entirely spoofed call, the voice channel is sick with scammers and spammers


The biggest spike overall (over the last two years) was seen in March of 2022 which corresponds with the CDC-reported flu season months. 


Social Security Scam


“They called and impersonated a recruiter; they asked for the last 4 digits of my social security number and date of birth. Then they attempted to push me into signing a contract. He said the job was based in New Jersey, but the call came from Washington. I wasn’t convinced”


This captured voice recording paints a perfect picture of the predatory nature of this scam. Bad actors are aware of the importance of Social Security and will do whatever it takes to exploit it. Watch out for these strategies fraudsters use to take advantage of your social security information:


  • There may be shipping issues with one of your packages, and they need your SSN to confirm it is you. 
  • Customs may call, claiming there are problems with a recent trip you took and/or luggage you carried; they’ll ask for your SSN to “rectify” the situation. 
  • A “social security office” may call claiming you are missing out on government benefits. 


How to Fight Back Against Scam Calls

While these scam techniques can prove to be highly effective, Hiya offers a variety of solutions to fight back.


Carriers can protect their customers from phone scams by adding Hiya Protect, which blocks or labels spam and scam calls with high accuracy, without blocking essential calls. Not only does it block or label known spam numbers, Hiya Protect identifies the patterns of spammers and blocks spam campaigns in their earliest stages.


Enterprises can help their customers feel safe answering the phone by adding Hiya Connect, which enables businesses to display their company name, logo, and reason for the call on the recipient’s mobile phone. Branded caller ID identifies who is calling so customers will not be afraid to answer their phones.


Individuals can check with their phone carrier to see if it offers spam/scam-blocking capabilities. If they do and spam and fraud calls are still getting through, download the Hiya App to take more control of your spam and fraud call protection.

Author Hiya Team