Caller ID is a useful phone feature that allows you to see who is calling. The problem is that scammers have cleverly created ways to hide their true identities. “Spoofing” is the term for altering the phone number that is displayed on your Caller ID.
Why would a caller “spoof”? The goal is to misrepresent themselves and trick you into answering their call.
Scams are a big deal. They can be costly and have a huge impact on the lives of victims.
A very common phone scam in Canada involves a caller representing themselves as a CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) agent. Intimidation tactics are often used and victims are led to believe that they must provide the CRA with vital information and/or money.
Canadians have lost more than $10M in CRA scams since 2014. In 2017 alone, Canadians lost $3M. (Source)
Scammers use spoofing in various ways.
Often, they use it to pose as a bank, business, or government agency. When you see an “official” caller like that, you are more likely to answer the phone. In this case, the scammer wants you to give up personal or financial information.
Another motivation for spoofing is blocked calls. If you’ve ever blocked a number from calling you, the caller may use spoofing to trick you into answering the phone next time.
When spoofing is being used, your Caller ID may display:
It is illegal for telemarketers to make calls to Canadians without accurately identifying themselves. Using technology to spoof Caller ID with inaccurate, false or misleading information is a violation of the regulations of the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission).
However, there are exceptions. In certain situations, a caller is permitted to alter the Caller ID information. Some examples include:
There are many things you can do to prevent becoming a victim to phone scams.
The CRTC is working hard to protect Canadians from spoofing. They need our help to enforce the rules. It’s easy to file a complaint here.
The CRTC website has a wealth of information about spoofing and unwanted calls, including what to do if you think you’ve been scammed.
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