British Columbia

RCMP warn over 'spoofing' scams where calls appear to be from police

Security experts say new apps allow call makers to fabricate caller IDs, impersonate officers and then ask for personal information.

Security experts say new apps allow call makers to fabricate call IDs and then impersonate officers

Former Victoria police officer Darren Laur shows how apps can be used to change the caller IDs on phones, making it look like 'RCMP Vancouver' is calling even though there is no such force. (CHEK News)

RCMP in B.C. are warning about calls that look like they are from police or the federal government but are scam attempts.

The calls are called 'spoofing' — when scammers are able to alter their outgoing caller ID to show a specific name or number on the phone of someone receiving a call.

When answered, the caller says they are an officer, sometimes using the name of an actual police officer.

They explain to the call taker that they are the victim of a crime and then ask the person to divulge personal information such as social insurance numbers, addresses or bank account numbers.

Police say the calls are being made in Nanaimo, Saanich, Victoria, and Kelowna.

In Saanich, Detective Sergeant Damian Kowalewich said spoofing, especially using regional police detachments, is a new low in scams.

"Dropping down to a local level like this is certainly unique and it's something I've never seen in my career," he said.

Darren Laur, a retired Victoria police officer, who now works in technology safety and privacy says new apps are available to criminals to allow them to spoof more easily.

He was able to use one of the apps on his phone to make a call that appeared as being from "RCMP Vancouver" even though there is no such force.

"Spoofing phone calls like this have been around for a long time," he said. "It's just it's become easier to do with the technology that is out there now."

1000s of calls

Laur says scammers are able to put out thousands of calls, hoping for just a few people to be fooled.

"Once you get those bites, that's the money you are looking to put in your pocket," he explained.

RCMP in Nanaimo said they are aware of calls being made to look like they come from the Canada Revenue Agency, Service Canada, and even the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Police advise call-takers suspicious of a call being a scam to hang up. Call takers do not need to report the calls to police unless they have provided personal information.

Calls suspected as being a scam attempt can be reported to the Canadian Anti- Fraud Centre.

With files from CHEK News

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.