phone spoofing

Phone spoofing scammers use simple software to disguise their calls as local numbers. (CBC News)

Phone scammers are using software to mask their real identities by displaying a fake telephone number.

The trick is called 'phone spoofing.' It's a tool used by fraudsters to mislead people into thinking the call is from a reputable business or person. 

'They do not quit. It's about driving me to the brink of sanity,' - Mike Boychuk

Sometimes the number the scammer uses already belongs to a real person. 

Mike Boychuk, a real estate agent in Saskatoon, has been a victim of phone spoofing.

It all began last year when Boychuk started getting suspicious calls with the Saskatchewan 306 area code coming through on his work cell phone, personal cell phone and home number. When he would answer, an automated voice would inform him he had won a cruise or offer an exclusive deal on air miles.

"I'd get a call from a local —what appeared to be — cell phone," Boychuk said.

mike boychuk

Mike Boychuk, a Saskatoon-based real estate agent, is a victim of phone spoofing. (Mikeboychuk.ca)

​Boychuk told CBC News he tried to ignore the calls, but a couple days after the calls started, regular people started calling him.

"I started getting people phoning me... they'd say 'I'm just calling you back', and I'd say 'who is this?'" Boychuk said. "I thought it was really strange because I hadn't made any calls."

After these sorts of calls persisted, Boychuk contacted his cell phone carrier, Telus Mobility.

Boychuk said Telus told him he was a victim of phone spoofing and assured him that the scammers usually used a particular number for only one or two weeks before they'd move on to another.

Chris Gerritsen, a spokesperson for Telus Mobility, told CBC News it is difficult for the company to actually help its customers who are repeatedly victims of the popular phone scam.

"It's very, very difficult to trace," Gerritsen said. "These spoofing applications are software that an individual loads onto their computer to use...it can't really be discerned which company is providing the spoofing service."

Telus Mobility said it is concerned about phone spoofing and has asked its customers to take precautionary measures against the scam.

"Don't give out your cell number to anyone other than those you trust," Gerritsen said.

However, precautionary measures won't help people like Boychuk. He said the calls still come on a regular basis.

"They do not quit ... It's about driving me to the brink of sanity because they call every number I have, my two cell phone numbers and my home number, maybe, at least twice a week," Boychuk said.

Canada's Anti Fraud Centre said victims of phone spoofing should immediately call their phone company when they realize what is happening.

"Your telephone or internet service provider may have the ability to determine the true IP address or telephone number but they must be informed quickly before this information is overwritten on their database," Canada's Anti Fraud Centre explains on its website.