Canada saw a spate of phone number fraud attacks over a 10-month period spanning from mid-2019 to 2020, according to data obtained by .
The data obtained through Access to Information Requests provides the first glimpse of the prevalence of attacks in Canada known as SIM swaps and fraudulent customer ports. The fraud involves a scammer who impersonates a customer to commandeer his phone number, and then uses the phone number to reset passwords to the victim’s e-mail, banking and other online accounts.
As per the data received from the Telecom Regulator of Canada, there were 24,627 unauthorized number port and SIM swaps between August, 2019 and May, 2020. Because of fraud.)
Most – 21,589 – were fraudulent customer ports, which occur when, by impersonating a mobile customer, a scammer was able to transfer or “port” that customer’s phone number to the scammer’s account in a different wireless carrier. Is. By gaining control over the victim’s phone number, the fraudster is able to reset the victim’s password on banking, e-mail and other applications that rely on text-message based, two-factor authentication. The attack takes advantage of rules that make it seamless for customers to switch wireless providers.
The remaining 3,038 attacks involved SIM swaps, where the scammer calls a customer’s mobile service provider, claiming their phone has been lost or stolen and requests to link the victim’s phone number to a new SIM card. controlled by the scammer. (SIMs, or customer identification modules, are small chip-based cards that connect cell phones to wireless networks.)
A data analysis conducted by The Granthshala found that around 1 percent of customer transfers, or ports, were unauthorized during a 10-month period. The proportion of unauthorized ports reached a peak of 2.5 per cent in April 2020.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission began collecting data from wireless carriers on SIM swaps and fraudulent customer ports in 2020, but has repeatedly declined to release that data to the public, despite pressure from consumer advocates. The CRTC initially modified the figures when responding to an information request from The Granthshala in August 2020, but agreed to release them a year later following a complaint filed by The Granthshala with the Canadian Information Commissioner’s office.
The Public Interest Advocacy Center (PIAC), a Toronto-based consumer group, is calling for greater transparency around SIM swaps and port fraud in Canada, arguing in a filing with the CRTC that the public interest of disclosing the data outweighs the potential harm. is the telecommunications industry.
Meanwhile, telcos say that the release of the data and the steps they have taken to tackle the problem will help scammers find ways to evade the security measures.
The CRTC recently revealed that the total number of unauthorized ports and SIM swaps declined by 95 per cent from October, 2020 to May, 2021, due to new security measures put in place by the carriers. PIAC executive director John Lawford said the regulator should go ahead and disclose monthly totals, as well as new safeguards.
“We can’t tell consumers how to avoid fraud because we don’t know exactly what steps [the telecoms] – and to say ‘trust us’ is not good enough,” Mr Lawford said in an interview.
Tara Howlett, a controller based in Brampton, Ont., was chatting on her cellphone one day in January 2020 when her line suddenly went dead. She initially assumed it was a network outage, but when she reached out to her wireless provider, she learned that her number had been ported to a different carrier. (Ms. Howlett had received a text message from her carrier about the requested transfer the night before, but dismissed it, believing it was a scam.)
As Ms. Howlett scrambles to gain control of her identity, the fraudster withdrew $10,000 from her bank account via a PayPal transaction and used her Amazon credentials to order items ranging from Nintendo Switch to dog beds. The experience was “beyond” stressful, Ms Howlett said.
“I was trying to prove who I am and I can’t because I didn’t have my phone number, my e-mail — I didn’t have access to these things,” she said. “I was feeling helpless.”
Although it took several weeks, Ms Howlett was able to gain access to her accounts and reverse the financial transactions. However, not all port fraud and SIM swap victims are so lucky.
“Consumer losses can be significant and life-changing,” Mr Lawford said.
In 2020, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center received 1,118 reports of SIM swaps and port fraud – a sharp increase from 37 reports in the previous year. The Center has so far received 155 reports in 2021.
The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, an industry group, said in a statement that its members take issues related to customer privacy and security seriously. “As fraudsters use new technologies to exploit consumers, our members respond by implementing new security measures and procedures.”
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