George Baiden usually avoids answering calls from numbers he doesn't know. But when a Toronto area code appeared on his cell phone, he answered thinking he was a friend.
It turned out to be an elaborate phone scheme whereby fraudsters steal phone numbers to make their calls – the latest twist on a long line of similar schemes that have raised millions of dollars across Canada.
Baiden says the lineman was aggressive, claiming to be with the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) and threatening legal action if Baiden didn't send him money.
"I asked him: 'Who are you and what is your employee's number?' He said he couldn't give me this information, it is classified. So I said to him: 'You is calling me, so why don't you tell me what my name is? & # 39; and he said … I have to identify with him, "Baiden said.
After a few comings and goings, Baiden told CBC reporter Thomas Daigle that the scammer was frustrated and hung up the phone.
Baiden called back the number and was intrigued when someone answered and said he had never made the call. In fact, the Toronto man said he had missed a call from Baiden's number and was about to call back.
Fake scams make millions of dollars
CBC Toronto spoke with the other man, who did not want his name published. Both he and Baiden say they were confused when they realized that the numbers used by the scammers were theirs.
"I asked if he worked for the CRA, he said, 'No, but these scammers are getting very sophisticated,'" Baiden said.
People who disguise themselves as government agencies and use local numbers to do so are just the latest telescope trends.
Scammers have made tens of millions of dollars using programs to fake legitimate local numbers or even those owned by government organizations, said Rhonda McEwen, an associate professor at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus, who teaches new media and communication.
"It's a globally run business. It's massively well-paying jobs where people are really doing it."
Since 2014, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center has received 78,472 complaints from all over Canada from scammers wishing to represent the CRA or the Canadian Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. The center says 4,695 people lost more than $ 16.7 million.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Center has also received hundreds of complaints about spoofing fraud, many of them requesting payment via gift cards or money transfers.
Don't trust your caller ID
According to the center, this must be one of the first signs that something is wrong. In a recent public publication, the center did not write any government services, including the CRA, "would ask for payment from a money service company, iTunes or bitcoin."
The center also warns against relying on its caller ID by saying "it's a convenience service, not a secure feature" that identifies who is on the other end of the line.
The country's top service providers are working to block fake calls by December 19. The move is in response to a directive issued last year by the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), telling companies to reduce the number of annoying Canadian calls they receive.
Bell and Rogers, for example, are testing new universal network-level call blocking technology.
McEwen said improvements may not come soon.
"People are very careful when responding to this mobile device. In fact, it is in the interest of device vendors and manufacturers to help users deal with it, otherwise people will start using other channels … You can't do that via WhatsApp or any other messenger. channels ".
Until then, McEwen has advised people to put themselves on no-call lists and block any recurring and threatening numbers.