Science & Technology

Phone scams are a plague of modern life. Here’s what you need to know

With 2.7 million phone frauds reported last year, there’s a good chance that you have also been a victim of these scams.

With 2.7 million phone frauds reported last year, there’s a good chance that you have received a scam call.

“Communications fraud” or more commonly known as  “Phone scams” is when a person uses communication devices or services to illegally obtain money or information from people by deceiving them. Some common scams include debt collection scams in which the scammer claims to be the CRA or IRS and tells the victim that they have large amounts of debt that must be paid immediately. Scammers might try to get personal information from you such as your SIN, these are identity theft scams. Another call that is similar to the others is imposter scams in which the scammer pretends to be somebody else such as your bank, CRA, IRS, or embassy and try to get information or money from the victim.

Where I live, in British Columbia’s lower mainland, one scam call that seemingly everyone has received multiple times is a robocall in Mandarin. Unlike other scam calls, this one isn’t a real person. This “company” has computers that automatically generate random numbers and call them with a pre-recorded message. These calls are targeting Chinese immigrants in Canada and in the USA. The messages claim to be from the Chinese embassy. One of the calls tells the intended victim that they have important documents that can affect their status in the country and that they must provide a valid ID to receive them. Another one says that there’s a package stuck in customs and in order to get it released your credit card information is required, or they claim that you filled the paperwork out wrong and must pay a fine or be deported. 

All the calls end with “please press 1 for more information.” If you press 1, it will connect the call to a real person in a call center in China and they will tell you that you’ve been connected to anything from money laundering to tax fraud. To resolve the situation, money must be wired to a Hong Kong bank.

Something you may have noticed is that when you get these calls, they often look like real numbers in your area code so you may answer it thinking it might be someone you know. This is possible because the scammers do something called “Spoofing.” Spoofing allows the caller to change their caller ID to any number other than the calling number. Whenever a call is made, the caller ID is transmitted between the first and second ring of the phone, during this part of the call it is possible to transmit the caller ID we want instead of the actual number. They can spoof to whatever number they want, even if it’s already somebody’s number so it is possible to get a call with the number of somebody you know and end up being a scam. This is also why blocking the scammer won’t work because they have millions of other numbers that they can call you with.

Although it’s a very popular method, this isn’t the only scam out there. There are millions of other scams and lots of them use similar methods. 

There are ways that you can protect yourself and keep your number away from scammers or just telemarketers in general.

One way that you can do it is by registering your number to the national do not call list which you can do for free on this website https://lnnte-dncl.gc.ca/en/Consumer/Register-your-number/#!/

The do not call list is helpful and will reduce the number of calls you get from telemarketers but it won’t stop the scammers.

Every time you use your phone number to sign up for something, whether it’s a survey or social media app or a contest, companies can do whatever they want with your number, even sell it. Some sites actually tell you that they might use your number in their terms and conditions, so instead of skipping it and hitting accept, spend some time and read the details. If you have the option, Instead of giving your phone number, you can use your email instead. Another alternative is getting a phone app like TextNow which gives you a free phone number that you can use just for online signups.

Some scammers use the same number instead of spoofing to a different number every time. In those cases, blocking the number can be effective.Unless you are 100% sure that the person on the other end is who they say they are, never give personal information over the phone, and if you know its a scam just hang up and block the number.

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