Brazil leads the world ranking of unwanted calls


For the fourth consecutive year, Brazilians were those who most received “spam” phone calls in the world — those calls that often come from unknown numbers and offer unsolicited products or services.

This is shown by the new edition of the Truecaller application’s global report, which identifies and blocks this type of connection.

In 2021 (considering the period from January 1st to October 31st), Brazil recorded an average of 32.9 spam calls per user per month.

The other countries in the ranking have much lower numbers, including second-place Peru, which had 18 spam calls per user per month.

The report to which BBC News had access states that Brazil is “a case apart”.

“To say that Brazil has a problem with spam is an understatement. Four consecutive years as the country most affected by spam should serve as a warning to local authorities to adopt heavy restrictions and fines for these activities”, says the survey by Truecaller, founded in 2009 in Sweden.

In the previous report, from 2020, the number of spam calls received per user per month in Brazil was higher: 49.9. In other words, there was a 34% decrease this year compared to the past.

Brazil led the ranking in 2018, 2019, 2020 and now in 2021.

‘A global problem’

In the 2021 report, most spam calls (44%) in Brazil were classified as coming from financial services such as banks, credit card companies and loans.

Then come calls related to sales (39%), a category that encompasses the offer of products, promotions and various subscriptions. Finally, 16.9% of the calls were considered “scam”, those that are an attempted scam.

These classifications are made with the collaboration of users of the application, who record telephone numbers and other information about incoming and unwanted calls.

In addition to Brazil and Peru, appear from third position onwards in the 2021 ranking: Ukraine; India, Mexico; Indonesia; Chile; Vietnam; South Africa; Russia; Colombia; Spain; Ecuador; Turkey; Italy; Honduras; Costa Rica; Greece; UAE; and the United States.

Most of the 20 countries that appear in the ranking registered less than 15 monthly calls per user, less than half the Brazilian score of 32.9.

In the period considered, 37.8 billion spam calls were blocked and identified worldwide, by approximately 300 million users.

According to the company, this volume increases every year and is related to three factors: the increase in the number of smartphones, application adherence and the growth in the number of spam calls made by companies and the like.

“This remains a global problem, and the reason ‘spam’ and ‘scam’ deals still exist is because they are highly profitable and involve very little effort and consequences,” the report says.

In recent years, technological advances have made it easier for companies to trigger calls — and at the same time have made the daily lives of those who receive these unwanted calls more difficult.

Some of these technologies are the autodialers, which trigger calls to multiple phone lines at the same time; VoIP, which allows phone calls over the internet; and the spoofers, which change or hide the numbers that appear on the caller ID.

Although Brazil is a “chapter apart”, as the Truecaller report says, different countries are experiencing problems with this type of activity.

The survey reveals that, in 2021, just one telephone number triggered 202 million spam calls in India, affecting 27,000 people every hour in the country.

African countries, on the other hand, have a particular problem with SMS spam messages, and they lead the ranking for this type of communication: first comes Cameroon, followed by Somalia, Tanzania, Congo, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Benin . Brazil appears in the eighth position of this ranking.

Calculating spam calls and messages per person helps balance factors such as a higher volume of app users by country—otherwise, a country with many consumers in absolute terms would soon move up in the rankings.

Even so, Truecaller’s press office explained that some factors can influence the data, such as the greater presence in a country of the Android system, to which the application is friendlier; and the population’s inclination to report nuisance calls in the app.

‘Telemarketing is making Brazilians and Brazilians stop answering the phone’

The report asks the authorities to take measures for such a problem in Brazil, and what the country has as its main response today is the national and state records in which users register that they do not want to receive telemarketing calls.

Não Me Perturbe is a national registry launched by the National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) in 2019 in partnership with telecommunications companies (mobile, landline, pay TV and internet) and banks in the payroll segment (loan operations and credit card payroll loans).

Once registered, the user must stop receiving calls from these companies within 30 calendar days.

State registries of this type are usually managed by Procons, the consumer protection and defense agencies. Companies from different sectors that disrespect these lists may be administratively sued by these bodies and eventually fined.

Anatel’s press office also informed the article that, as of 2022, a unique code —0303— will be implemented for telemarketing calls in the telecommunications sector. In other words, companies calling for this purpose should display this number, so that people receiving calls can more easily identify that it is telemarketing.

The implementation will be gradual: mobile telephony providers must do it in 90 days, and fixed telephony operators, in 180 days.

Diogo Moyses, coordinator of the Telecommunications and Digital Rights program at the Brazilian Institute for Consumer Protection (Idec), says that records and the provision of a code are “meritorious” measures, but insufficient to deal with the size of the affected population and gaps technologies adopted by companies when making calls spam.

One of the limitations pointed out by him is that only a small portion of people are able and willing to register in the national and state registers.

“And the state lists are valid for all economic sectors, but they are heterogeneous. You can’t think that, for example, a funeral service that is selling flats will have the same level of organization as the telecommunications sector”, adds Moyses.

“Even the sector that went for self-regulation (with the national registry) cannot control its sales segments, which are often outsourced or quartered. This is evident both in telecommunications operators, who admit this, and especially in the credit sector consigned, that even after having adhered to Não Perturbe, it only grows in the number of complaints.”

“You have to reverse the logical ordering of reasoning and give the consumer the right they’re due — and that’s not the right to be on a block list.”

The coordinator of Idec explains that there is no specific national law regarding abusive telemarketing, but that existing rules, such as the LGPD (General Law for the Protection of Personal Data), allow interpreting that the practice is illegal — since its beginning, with the inseparable illegal obtainment of leaked data.

“It’s a perverse ecosystem that starts with illegal databases and ends with harassment, if not criminal harassment.”

“The law is very clear that you need a legal basis to use personal data, and the phone number is unambiguous personal data. The right of the user, the data subject, is not to block his phone number . You are not receiving calls for the offer of products and services, unless you have given consent to do so.”

Moyses defends the creation of specific legislation on abusive telemarketing in line with the LGPD or that regulatory bodies, such as the National Data Protection Authority, take decisions that guide punishments for companies that call people without consent.

The respondent mentions a September report in the regional newspaper RJTV, on TV Globo, showing that the São Francisco Hospital in Providência de Deus, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, was having difficulty informing patients that they could benefit from organ donation because people are not answering the phone.

“Telemarketing is causing all Brazilians to stop answering the phone. This is not secondary. We are simply annihilating the voice service in the name of protecting economic sectors and marketing practices that are absolutely unethical and illegal”, concludes Moyses.


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