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Scam of the Month: Utilities

It takes a lot to run a happy home. Proper light, heat, and power are necessary for the upkeep of any shelter; utilities are a reflection of your livelihood. Whether it is basic recurring payments or an estimate for a total overhaul, utilities are tied to your finances. Your bank account number, routing number, and even in some cases your social security number is typically connected to your bills; this makes utilities the perfect target for bad actors. Scammers will do anything they can to get your sensitive information and use it for their devious purposes.

“You have been overcharged on your electric bill. If you just give us your routing number and your checking account number, we can just directly deposit this money into your account.” 

Yeah, likely story.

Seasonal Scam Disorder

When we think about utilities our minds immediately go to heat, electricity, and home services; all are necessary for maintaining a comfortable environment. As a result, the need for certain services changes with the seasons, especially during these particularly hot summers. A variety of scams follow this simple seasonal principle.

Varieties

  • Home services rely on delivery and installation. Initiate your communications through a protected voice channel to provide a human touch. Give your customers someone they can trust from the get-go. General home services include:

    • House painting

    • Alarm installation
    • Home delivery
  • Electricity, as you may have guessed, is the most popular form of the utility scam. This variant has a clear pattern of seasons spikes; these spikes correspond directly with recent summer’s intense heat waves:

    • August 2022

      • Recorded as the second hottest August on record

      • Hiya captured a massive spike reaching over 8,000 calls

      • More scammers were making calls about AC and other electric-powered services

August 2022 has proven to be a more manageable month, but the heat continues to be strong and consistent. Electricity remains the most popular form of utility scam.

“They call claiming to be from the electric company asking for money and threatening to disconnect my services.” - Captured from the Hiya honeypot.

  • Alternative energy needs increase in popularity during the winter months. As it gets colder more energy is needed to heat your home. With the rising need for protection from the elements comes the rise of associated scam calls. Popular forms of energy other than electricity include:

    • Natural gas

    • Coal
    • Thermodynamic

How big did it get?

The utility scam saw its busiest spike at the beginning of the summer, peaking at the end of July into August 2022. Out of the nearly 4 million potential scam calls that Hiya analyzed, about .6% were determined to be a utility scam. While this low percentage may not seem overbearing initially, it amounts to about 24,000 calls in the few short weeks between July and August.

Pick-up rate and call duration

There is a clear parallel between pick-up rates and call duration; one begets the other and they both move in tandem. The average international pick-up rate of the utility scam is quite high; over 21% of potential scam calls were answered globally. The average call duration seen for these answered calls can reach heights of over 9 minutes. Domestically, call duration is a lot lower; potential calls go on for about half a minute, while successful calls only break one minute during the summer months. Even in manageable situations, these scams are a particular nuisance during the summer.

The voice channel is plagued with scam and spoof calls of all shapes and sizes. When a scammer uses your utilities as a way to manipulate you then they are taking advantage of your basic needs. Without the proper protection solution, you run the risk of putting your customers in harm’s way. Hiya Protect can defend your carrier network against this debilitating scam through the power of Adaptive AI; unlike your basic registry, Adaptive AI learns with your network providing real-time insights and protection.

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. It is used by phone carriers, mobile phone manufacturers, and network providers looking to create a differentiated voice offering and increase customer satisfaction. Not only does it block or label known spam numbers, but using Adaptive AI it 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 not, ask your carrier to consider adding Hiya Protect.

Author Hiya Team

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