Imagine receiving a phone call from a local friend or business only to find yourself speaking with a telemarketer or hearing a recording that you won a cruise and the only way to claim that prize would be to fork out hard-earned money.
While this may seem a little far-fetched it is something that occurs on a daily basis by fraudsters, usually in another country, who “spoof” their phone number to look like its local.
Ponoka resident Graham Boyes has received at least a dozen of these calls, one where the number displayed was from a contractor he had recently dealt with.
To illustrate the ease spoofing, for his interview, Boyes called Ponoka News from home but the caller I.D. showed as the interviewer’s personal home number. To do that, Boyes used a switch that he utilized during his previous job to configure his phone number to be different.
The other scam he has heard was a voice recording saying that because his credit card balance was high, he was eligible for a low interest rate. “I knew right away it was a scam because I don’t run balances on my credit cards,” he stated.
Enforcement no easy task
Boyes wants to help people be aware of this issue because the more people who are aware, the less profitable it will be for the scammers, many of whom call from other countries. This makes enforcement by the RCMP and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) almost impossible.
Tools such as the permanent Do Not Call List and laws restricting spoofing for telemarketers have no real function, as these culprits are most-likely using software that generates random numbers for a local area.
“In a town like Ponoka, chances are, over a dozen or more calls, one of them is going to be somebody I know,” explained Boyes.
In 2012, the CRTC gave a notice of violation to Pecon Software with an address in India. They were fined $495,000 for violating telecommunications rules. More than six months filing documents in India, it was unclear if Pecon Software had even received the notice.
Spoofing is not illegal and has practical uses for businesses wanting to provide a local contact number when dealing with customers. For example, a customer service representative may call from their cell phone but will have their office number displayed.
However, telemarketers are required to identify themselves when making calls but fraudsters do not follow those rules.
Another call Boyes received was a message from an unfamiliar number stating they were sorry they missed his call but to call them back.
“There’s not a whole lot law enforcement can do to telemarketers overseas,” explained Boyes.
Staying aware and reporting issues
Telus spokesperson Liz Sauvé says scammers most-likely use online platforms that provides random phone numbers.
“Unfortunately, fraudsters oftentimes try to disguise themselves as (a) trusted, reputable, known organization such as Telus, and will attempt to get personal information,” explained Sauvé in an email. “They likely figure imposing as a company with a large customer base increases their chances of getting someone who is in fact a customer”
She says banks and credit card companies are used by scammers to appear legitimate. In those cases she recommends hanging up and calling the company to confirm.
There are ways to tackle these issues; victims can contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or at https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca. Phonebusters.com is another website to visit for more information.
This article includes information from the blog by Michael Geist, Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa