[Spam Calls #2] The Anatomy of a Spam Call

Chris Sorensen

6 minutes

Inside this article:

Spam Call Characteristics

Types of Spam Calls

How Flags Impact Reputation

Summary and What’s Next

Note: This is the 2nd article in our 5-part series designed to help businesses understand the spam call ecosystem and reduce the risk of flags on their legitimate calls.

Missed our first post? Start here:
Understanding the Spam Call Ecosystem

We've all been there—a phone call from an unknown number interrupts your day.

Is it a doctor? Kids’ school? You answer with a glimmer of hope, only to be met with a prerecorded message about winning a cruise or an insistent voice trying to sell you something you don't need. 

It's the familiar tale of a spam call, a nuisance that has become all too common in our mobile-driven world. Some of these calls are correctly flagged. Others are not.

So what exactly makes a call qualify as spam? 

Why is it essential for businesses to understand the anatomy of these unwanted intrusions? 

In this second installment of our blog series, we'll dissect the characteristics that define a spam call, explore different categories of spam calls, and discuss the consequences of having your legitimate business calls mistaken for spam.

Spam Call Characteristics

The defining features of a spam call can vary, but they typically share certain traits that trigger spam alerts for consumers and anti-spam systems:

1. Frequent Calls

Spam calls often come in clusters, with repeated attempts in a short timeframe. This high call frequency raises suspicion and can lead to call blocking.  Spammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated by ‘using and burning’ phone numbers for 1-2 call attempts before attempting their call using an entirely different phone number.

2. Generic Caller IDs

Spam callers frequently use generic or misleading caller IDs, making it challenging to identify the source of the call. This lack of transparency is a red flag. 

3. Repetitive Content

Spam calls often deliver scripted or prerecorded messages. The repetitive nature of these messages can be a telltale sign of spam. How can this be tracked? In our previous installment we talked about Honeypots - tracked numbers that are known to be unassigned and unallocated - and therefore useful for listening for pre-recorded messages that are entirely irrelevant to the number called, and therefore a strong signal for spam.

4. Short Duration

Understandably, a lot of spam calls don’t last particularly long. Between dropped/abandoned calls, immediate hang ups, and quick disinterest, a high percentage of calls terminate within a few seconds of a live answer. Accordingly, analytics agencies will weigh the percentage of “short duration” calls originating from a number when applying flags.

Types of Spam Calls

Spam calls come in various forms, each with its unique annoyance factor. Understanding these categories can help businesses grasp the diverse spam landscape:

1. Telemarketing Calls

These are perhaps the most common spam calls. Telemarketers attempt to sell products or services, often to an uninterested or unwilling audience.

2. Phishing Calls

Scammers use phishing calls to trick individuals into revealing personal information, such as Social Security numbers or financial details.

3. Robocalls

Robocalls are automated calls that deliver recorded messages. They can be telemarketing pitches or even messages claiming to be from government agencies, such as the IRS.

4. Neighbor Spoofing

This tactic involves using a caller ID that closely resembles the recipient's own phone number or the area code they are familiar with, increasing the likelihood of the call being answered.

How Flags Impact Reputation

For businesses, the consequences of having legitimate calls labeled as spam can be far-reaching. Here's why it matters:

1. Lost Opportunities

If your genuine business call is mistaken for spam, the recipient is likely to ignore it and miss out on important communication or opportunities. Flags can have a dramatic impact on call answer and engagement rates.

2. Damage to Reputation

Being associated with spam can harm your business's reputation. Even when you are fortunate enough to connect, the label can erode trust and can discourage potential customers from engaging with your brand.

3. Ineffective Communication

Legitimate calls labeled as spam are less likely to achieve their intended purpose. This can affect customer outreach, appointment reminders, or any other crucial communication.

4. Lost Talent

When businesses can’t effectively engage with their leads and customers, good workers are let go, or leave. In fact, 78% of businesses surveyed reported losing at least 1 position due to flags on legitimate calls. 53% reported losing 10 or more jobs.

5. Wasted Lead Spend

Good leads cost good money. An inability (or reduced ability) to connect with leads due to false flags inevitably causes good leads to slip through the cracks.

Summary and What’s Next

Understanding the anatomy of spam calls is crucial for both businesses and consumers.

If you think about it, the reason carriers are able to flag calls as “Scam/Spam Likely” is simply because the calls and the phone numbers they originate from share common qualities.

By recognizing common characteristics and categories of spam calls businesses evaluate their own practices and take steps to avoid falling into the spam trap. 

Considering the steep costs of having legitimate calls being flagged as spam, it’s a worthy endeavor for every business and outreach professional.

In our next blog post, we'll delve into various anti-spam measures/approaches and how they are designed to protect subscribers from the scourge of spam calls.

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