South Africa has seen a big increase in spam calls since the lockdown regulations started to ease and commerce returned in the country.
Last year, South Africa was ranked as having the sixth-highest spam call rate in the world with an average of 25.2 spam calls a month per user.
These calls come from telemarketers, scammers, and automated calling platforms from companies trying to sell products to consumers.
Apart from being disruptive and annoying, these spam calls can also pose risks to consumers through scams like tech support fraud and one ring scams.
Many people hoped that action will be taken against spam calls to protect consumers, but this has not happened. In fact, spam calls are increasing.
Many South Africans have shared anecdotal evidence of a spike in spam calls over the past few months.
The increase in spam calls in South Africa was confirmed by Truecaller, the world’s leading caller ID and spam blocking app.
Through its large user base in South Africa, Truecaller has excellent insight into the prevalence of spam calls in the country.
Kim Fai Kok, director of communications at Truecaller, told MyBroadband that when the lockdown kicked in there was a 59% decrease in spam calls in South Africa.
However, as the lockdown restrictions started to ease, spam calls started to spike in the country.
“From April to October there was a 191% increase in spam calls,” Fai Kok said.
He added that October 2020 had the highest percentage of spam calls, with 17% more spam than pre-COVID-19.
How to stop spam calls
The simplest and most effective way to block unwanted calls is through a dedicated app like TrueCaller.
While certain smartphones have features that block unwanted calls, not many automatically filter calls by comparing caller IDs to a public database of known spam callers.
For this, you will need to download an app like TrueCaller, which identifies and blocks spammers as well as identifying the caller ID of private numbers.
Certain devices, such as Samsung’s Galaxy S smartphones, come with spam call protection built-in, with the device’s operating system screening calls for direct marketing-related numbers.
Apple allows iPhone users to block specific numbers, but they will still need to download a third-party app to screen private numbers and unknown callers.
Another tool in the fight against spam calls is to opt-out of direct marketing through the Direct Marketing Association of South Africa (DMASA).
This organisation operates a Do Not Contact (DNC) service and the National Opt-Out Registrar, which users can register their details on to prevent being contacted by marketing calls.
Once on this list, marketing agents affiliated with DMASA are not allowed to contact you without permission.
This does not deter scammers from calling you – or companies which are not members of the DMASA – but it can help to reduce the volume of telemarketing calls you receive.
When you are called by a telemarketer, you can also ask them to stop calling you and to remove you from their database. This is, however, not very effective.
The Consumer Protection Act gives you the right to opt-out of direct marketing, but unfortunately, not many call centre agents have the right or motivation to act on these requests.