Scammers targeting Chinese Canadians have an unwitting accomplice thanks to 'spoofing'

A Vancouver woman says she is the victim of a new round of scam calls targeting Chinese Canadians — although she hasn't actually received the calls herself.

Not much to be done about 'spoofing,' Telus says — but CRTC says they could take further action

A woman in Vancouver says she is getting angry calls because scammers are "spoofing" her phone number. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

A Vancouver woman says she is the victim of a new round of scam calls targeting Chinese Canadians — although she hasn't actually received the calls herself.

Kellie Sherba's phone number, according to her phone provider, is showing up on the call displays of people receiving the automated calls.

"This lady left me a message this morning, very frustrated, said 'stop phoning me,'" Sherba told On The Coast's Matthew Lazin-Ryder.

"I said I had nothing to do with this."

The scam phone calls, which target Chinese immigrants, leave a pre-recorded message in Mandarin that says there is a package waiting for them at the Chinese embassy.

It asks the recipient to press 1. But if they do, they're connected with someone who claims the recipient is in trouble with the Chinese government and must give sensitive personal information, like credit card details and passport numbers, or send money.

The calls appear to target recent immigrants from China, RCMP has said. (Gajus/Shutterstock)

'Spoofed'

Sherba's phone provider, Telus, says her number has been "spoofed" — scammers are electronically making her number show up on victims' call displays.

They say the only thing that can be done is change her number. They have offered to do that for free.

"We understand how frustrating this is for our customer," Telus said in a statement to CBC. "Our security team is investigating, but unfortunately there is often little security and law enforcement in Canada can do given the scammers are overseas."

Spoofing can be done quite simply — there are several free, legal apps available online at the App Store or iTunes that can make your call make it look like it's coming from somewhere else.

The only law in Canada against spoofing is a regulatory one: legitimate telemarketers in Canada aren't allowed to mislead call displays, facing fines of up to $15,000.

CRTC wants more action

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which regulates telecom companies, thinks companies can do more about spoofing in Canada.

It recently ordered all Canadian telecom companies to put in technology to accurately track where calls are really coming from by no later than March 31, 2019.

"The Commission is prepared to take further action if it becomes clear that the telecommunications industry is not taking sufficient measures to protect Canadians against nuisance calls," a recent ruling reads.

Jessica Gunson with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says less than five per cent of so-called "mass marketing fraud" is reported.

"Most likely [victims] feel ashamed or embarrassed," Gunson said. "These are professional criminals. They are going to say and do anything they can to steal your money.

"The number one thing you can do [to stop the crime] is report it to your local police. Number two, to our centre as well."

The other thing people should do, Gunson says, is just hang up on suspected scammers.

With files from Matthew Lazin-Ryder and CBC Radio One's On The Coast