The Life and Death of a Scam Call

The phone rings. It’s a familiar voice, one you’ve hung up on many times before.

8:53 AM: “Hi, this is Heather from Card Services…”

A quick search on the PrivacyStar apps yields a result of “telemarketer” with only a 0/5 Spam Score.

9:15 AM: The score is up to 3 out of 5.

9:45 AM: The number now registers as a full 5/5 Spam Score. Heather’s number is deemed a scam and blocked for PrivacyStar users.


So how does a call go from unknown to unanswerable in less than an hour? It’s all thanks to Athena, our knowledge engine. Athena is the brains behind PrivacyStar, continuously monitoring statistics to detect “abnormal” behavior of potential nuisance callers. If we see a number with a high volume of calls or customer complaints, the Spam Score can escalate quickly.

Here’s how this number progressed through the system. It first popped up on our radar, briefly looking like a normal phone number. The call statistics were low enough that Athena assigned it a score of 0. However, all of a sudden the number of calls escalated to almost 40 calls per hour, and we started getting complaints and block requests. That immediately raised the Spam Score to 3, catching the attention of our team.

When the Spam Score gets high enough to be deemed “interesting”, the number is passed on to our Research & Validation team to investigate. That’s right – we have real, live people in our office calling these numbers to verify who’s calling and what’s happening on the line. Once the number is identified as a full-fledged scammer, we promote the score to 5/5 and automatically block those calls from getting through.

Today, the number remains at a Spam Score of 5, with calls per hour nearing 300. When “Heather” sees productivity drop off after being blocked, the activity will move to a new phone number and the process starts all over again. That’s why it’s critical to have an automated process in place, so we can detect changing activity in real-time.

If you suspect you’re getting a call from Heather (or Veronica, or Frank, or whatever name they may choose), never give out any personal information, including your full name, phone number, or social security number. File a complaint or block the number directly in the app, and you’ll be helping us keep scammers like these from getting through.

Download PrivacyStar and try our Pro service for free for 7 days on iPhone or Android.


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