With ‘spike’ in spoofed phone calls, telecom companies prepare to implement solutions

Whether it’s phony Canada Revenue Agency staff, duct cleaners or police, you’ve likely heard from one or all of them on your phone over the last couple years.

Phone calls from “spoofed” or faked phone numbers, with callers that ultimately ask for your money or personal information, seem to be on the rise as of late.

“These calls come in waves and we are seeing one of those spikes more recently,” says Jeff Thomson, a senior RCMP intelligence analyst working for the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

“A lot of ‘Service Canada’ or…’Department of Justice’ calls.”

Previously these types of hoax calls were easy to spot just by looking at the odd numbering on your call display. But lately, Thomson said the criminals on the line have grown smarter, adding they are spoofing numbers from legitimate government and law enforcement agencies.

“They can make any number they want appear on that call display, so you really can’t trust caller ID today,” he said.

The advice from security experts has always been to ignore or hang up on them, but for the thousands who do, there are always one or two who don’t realize they’re being scammed and end up making a costly error.

“It’s a game of numbers,” said Kellman Meghu, a global security manager for Syscomp.

“The more people (scammers) hit, the better chances they’re gonna find someone that falls for it.”

These types of operations are difficult for law enforcement to target and track, but very easy for the criminals behind them to run.

“They’re automated systems, it’s computers that are connecting them automatically to numbers,” said Meghu.

“And because this could all be self-contained, for example, on (a) laptop, (they) can pick up and move to a new building within minutes.”

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has demanded that all Canadian telecoms update their systems by Dec. 19 to limit these types of calls.

Both Rogers and Bell told Global News that they are ready for that deadline using a technology called universal call blocking, which will target and block phone numbers that don’t meet North American or international standards.

While it’s a good first step, many cybersecurity experts — Meghu included — said they feel that it will only slow, and not stop, the wave of spoofed calls.

Calling it a worldwide issue, the CRTC said it is aggressively working with international partners and the industry to come up with new technology and solutions. They admitted though that it is a complex problem.


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