A new technology that aims to combat scam robocalls in Canada appears to be showing positive early signs, experts say.
In late November, the CRTC required all phone service providers to use the STIR/SHAKEN technology, which flags out spam calls.
“Before, fraudsters would use VOIP — voice over IP. So not traditional numbers but essentially internet phone numbers, and they were able to mask the caller ID to make it look legitimate,” cybersecurity and tech analyst Ritesh Kotak told Global News.
“It’s essentially a digital handshake to validate that number and if that number is not validated, then it shouldn’t be going through, thus it doesn’t reach the user.”
Carmi Levy, a technology analyst based in London, Ont., says while it’s too early to have concrete data, early reports suggest the technology is already cutting back on scam calls.
“The volume and frequency of these calls is heading in the right direction, it is going down,” Levy said.
“People are reporting — again, anecdotally — that they are getting fewer of these calls. It’s less annoying now than it was this before change went into effect.”
Levy says similar technology has proven successful in the United States. But he also warns that it’s not a single solution, and scammers will eventually find a workaround.
“It’s like a never-ending game of cops and robbers: the good guys try to figure out a new way to protect us, the bad guys try to figure out a new way around that,” Levy said.
“It will go back and forth for awhile; we’ll probably see ebbs and flows. The number of robocalls will go up and down over time, but what we know now is that we now have an important new tool and it is already making a difference and I would expect we’ll continue to see that in the future.”
Levy also says to watch for a change on your call display screen in the coming months.
“Keep your eyes open for indications from your phone company that this call may in fact not be legit and may show a red notification or bar or something like that, and if it’s a legitimate call it may show green,” he said. “So keep your eyes open for that — the notification system is about to change a little bit as well.”
Experts say the number of scam calls and emails has increased tenfold over the course of the pandemic.
“The pandemic really created a veil of vulnerability to a lot of people, not just with their jobs but with their work from home situation,” Android Central technology journalist Shruti Shekar said.
“Weakened networks, weakened Internet services — I think it just gave an opportunity for scammers.”
Shekar says the same applies to scam emails as well.
“Everything has shifted online, and that has given such a great opportunity — an unfortunate one — for scammers to say, now is my time to target individuals with different types of promo emails or ways to get people’s information and scam them,” Shekar said.
She also adds that while these types of scams are annoying for some, they can also be dangerous.
“For some people when they get robocalls, get really scared because sometimes those robocalls might be indicating you might get kicked out of the country, you owe a lot of money,” she said.
“I think a a lot of people get really scared, they worked hard to come into this country, a lot of them are immigrants and I think it’s important to know that the government would never threaten you with money over a phone call — that would never ever happen. If there was a real legitimate issue, they would contact you in other means that are more legitimate.”
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