Over the past few years, Canadians have witnessed a rise in the number of spoof or fraudulent calls involving financial risks. According to the recently released 2021 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy & Research, Identity fraud cost Americans a total of about $56 billion last year, with the bulk of the losses, about $43 billion, stemming from identity theft scams through robocalls and phishing emails. Canadians, too, are in a similar situation where the caller falsely assumes an authoritative identity like that of Revenue Canada or RCMP and encourages the listener to take financially harmful actions like transferring funds or buying bitcoins by putting pressure or creating fear in their minds.
In a speech to the Canadian Telecom Summit in Toronto on Monday, Nov 15th, CRTC chair Ian Scott noted that more than 25 percent of all the calls made on mobile networks are robocalls. He also recognized that it is a huge problem and will require tremendous effort by regulators and cooperation by the industry to address it.
With that in mind, CRTC, Canada’s telecommunications regulator, is mandating that telecom companies implement new technology to bring some relief from spoofing and fraudulent phone calls. CRTC chair Ian Scott has given the country’s telecom companies until Nov 30th to update their networks to meet a technical standard that gives telecom providers the ability to validate a caller’s identity.
In 2019, the CRTC approved the establishment of the Canadian Secure Token-Governance Authority Inc., an industry group whose role is to encourage industry-wide adoption of policies, protocols, and operating procedures to mitigate spoofing and illegal robocalling. And while Bell Canada, the leading telecommunication company, did block more than 1.1 billion calls between July 2020 and October 2021 by implement8ng some new practices and technologies, countrywide adoption by every telecom provider remains at large, leaving the Canadians just as exposed.
The two prominent actions that the Canadian Telecom Providers are expected to undertake are STIR and SHAKEN.
Secure Telephony Information Revisited, or STIR, is a technical standard that provides a means for carriers to authenticate the identity of callers. While “SHAKEN” is short for “signature-based handling of asserted information using tokens” and refers to the framework for implementing the standard in IP-based service providers’ networks.
The only deadline Canadian carriers are expected to meet by the end of the month is to implement these technologies on their network, giving Canadians the ability to determine which calls are legitimate and worth answering and which need to be treated with caution.
It will be the first of many steps that CRTC, in cooperation with the Telecom providers, will take to minimize the exposure of the Canadian audience to such fraudulent calls and financial scams.