Blocking Robocalls in Canada: What To Do About It in 2021

Robocalling is the worst. Not only do these spam calls annoy us to no end, but they scam hundreds of thousands of people out of hard-earned money every year. The last few years have been no different despite increased efforts in North America to block robocalls. Let’s start with some stats. Some of these numbers will surprise you.

Thanks to or most of the data you see below.

Note: We were unable to find verifiable statistics for 2020, so the data you see below is for 2019.

Canadian Robocalling Statistics For 2019

According to Hiya, approximately 2.1 billion scam calls were made to Canadian phone numbers in 2019. That’s an average of 6 calls per Canadian per month. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) said that scam calls were “one of the top reported scams” of 2019.

Despite these numbers being in the billions, there is some evidence to suggest that 2020 was not as bad as 2019, at least in Canada and the United States. This is almost certainly because of COVID-19 lockdown measures and the TRACED Act (more on that below). Coronavirus precautions worldwide kept consumers at home and put a wrench in major calling campaigns by sidelining the call center agents responsible. But regardless of how and why it happened, this is significant news. Especially knowing that robocalls went up in 2018 and even higher in 2019. Any downward trend is a welcome sight.

Even so, 2.1 billion scam calls is a lot!

Wonder what provinces get the most scam calls?

Canadian area codes that received the most scam calls:

Ottawa (613)

British Columbia (778)

Hamilton (905)

Montreal (514)

Alberta (403)

Edmonton (780)

Vancouver (604)

Southwestern Ontario (519)

Ontario (416)

Toronto (647)

Types of Canadian Scam Calls

Most scam calls come in one of four varieties:

Tech Support Scams

These calls heavily target senior citizens. The caller says they’ve detected a virus or some other problem with your computer and that for a small fee they can fix. What’s awful about this scam type is that not only do they fraudulently take your money but they usually send you a link and tell you to click on it, saying that it will download helpful anti-virus software. When in reality, it downloads malware directly onto your computer.

Inheritance Scams

The caller poses as a foreign government official, banker, government representative, or lawyer. They say you have a relative with an overseas bank account full of money and that you are the rightful recipient. All you have to do to claim this money is give them your financial and personal information. These callers are some of the pushiest (and most clever) in the scam calling business.

Emergency Scam

This is another scam that targets senior citizens almost exclusively. These calls are most often received in the middle of the night, waking you up to catch you in a disoriented state. The caller tells you that your grandchild is some kind of trouble and that they need money. They then try to convince you to send them a large sum of money via wire transfer.

Immigration Scam

These calls target people who are working through the Canadian immigration system and new Canadian residents. The caller pretends they are an immigration officer and tells you that your immigration documents were filled out or submitted incorrectly. They try to collect your personal information and your banking information, saying that this service requires a fee.

What Should I Do About It?

First, add your name to Canada’s Do Not Call list right now. Here’s the link. Second, download a call blocking or caller ID app. Popular ones that work really well include Trucaller, Hiya, Robokiller, and CallHero.

Here are some robocalling rules to follow:

- If you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer it.

- If it’s an automated voice from an unknown number, chances are it’s a scam call.

- If they ask you if you want to be removed from their list, don’t do it. If you agree to this, it will only increase the number of calls you receive. Why? Because what you’re really doing is verifying with them that your number is in fact a valid number.

- If they ask you to push a button to speak to an agent, don’t do it (for the same reason stated above).

- Don’t say anything. Sometimes scam callers record any speech they get from you on the call and use it against other callers, sometimes against people you know.

What’s Being Done About Robocalls In 2021?

It seems we live in an age of ever-increasing misinformation. And that is precisely what the scammers behind robocalling (and robotexting) thrive on. The more naïve or misinformed we are, the easier it is for these villains to gain access to our personal information and bank accounts. Most of these scam calls give themselves away within seconds. But some of them are expertly devised and hard to identify. And you know these scammers are always coming up with new ways to trick us into giving them access to our sensitive information.

So far this year, we’ve already seen more and more telecom carriers implement the very effective robocall mitigation program STIR/SHAKEN. But even with all the commercial-grade software and mobile apps designed to protect us, you can’t let your guard down. Staying vigilant and keeping yourself informed about new scam tactics is the only proper way to keep your sensitive information secret. It is still the most effective method of blocking robocalls.

5 Developments Affecting Canadian Robocalling In 2021

Here are some things that will play out this year related to robocalling. These items range from scam campaigns we know are being launched this year to specific ways that industry forces and governments mean to stop them.

1. The TRACED Act Is Gaining More Traction

In Dec 2019, the TRACED Act was signed (or the Pallone-Thune TRACED ACT). This regulation requires voice service providers (specifically medium and large companies) to implement the STIR/SHAKEN software as well as to get their non-IP networks upgraded. The Act states this all must be done by the last day of June this year. Smaller voice services have a more loose deadline–a 2-year extension, to be exact–because of the economic strain of 2020. The effects of this act are trickling into Canada.

As of this writing, it’s been more than a year since the Act was started. Though we haven’t yet seen the full materialization of the TRACED Act’s expected relief, the law’s effects are becoming discernible.

The Act is already making it easier for law enforcement officials, the FTC, and the FCC to identify and prosecute robocalling scammers. Data already exists to suggest the number of phone-based fraudulent schemes is being reduced. Last year, state attorney generals country-wide were more aggressive than ever in combatting robocalls. In one American case, the attorney general of Michigan identified and charged two political operatives in a voter suppression robocall operation. And that’s only one example of many from last year.

This year, they’re being even more aggressive. The TRACED Act is giving support to more extreme call authentication measures and increased fines for robocalling campaigns. This is significant news as we’ve already seen the use of call centers in robocalling scams go up this year compared to last. The professionals are getting better at blocking robocalls all the time.

2. Call Legitimacy Solutions And Branded Calling Are Being More Widely Adopted

Last year, COVID data included lots of unquantifiable numbers (unnecessary exposures, additional cases, etc) because of the mixed success experts had with contact tracing. Part of this mixed success was because people today are more disinclined than ever to answer calls from unknown numbers. Some health experts referred to this as a possible public health concern, as it represents a serious hurdle for those conducting contact tracing.

We bring this up because it offers a prime example of why branded calling solutions are a big need this year. What is are they? Branded calling solutions involve a verifiable logo, name, and message that shows up on your screen when the call comes in, regardless of if you have the contact saved in your phone. Many public health agencies around the country are already using BCS hoping more people will answer their calls. And where robocall scams are concerned, BCS will help authenticate legitimate callers from illegitimate ones. Which will provide more relevant call data to networks and trackers. This will make scam protection algorithms more effective.

3. Phone Scams Will Be More Convincing Than Ever

So you need to be constantly aware of robocall scams. They’re only going to get more sophisticated and blocking robocalls on your own will be harder if you don’t stay aware. Take the COVID phone scams that proliferated last year (and are still going on now). Whatever is topical, scammers will pick up on it and play along. Millions of people throughout 2020 reported scam calls about phony stimulus check info and fake COVID test kits.

Scammers are also getting better at circumventing call threshold regulations. They’re able to keep their call volume below these thresholds by making lists of thousands of numbers and spreading their calls across all of them. This allows them to avoid triggering alarms set by call authentication systems. The term for this tactic is called snowshoe spamming.

There is also a recent development that’s much more concerning. You may have heard of phone scammers targeting certain individuals using personal information that is publicly available. Well, reports have come in about scam calls that use what’s referred to as deep-fake technology. Using AI, robocall software is getting adept at imitating the voices of people you know; coworkers, friends, even family. And this tech is only going to get more sophisticated as time goes on. This is a very scary up-and-coming development being used to con people out of their personal information and money.

4. The Rise Of Robotexting

Have you received a scam text before? Though they aren’t as common as robocalls, they are steadily becoming more prevalent. These fraudulent text messages are already sophisticated enough to put your personal information stored on your phone in jeopardy simply by clicking on the hyperlink included in the text. As you would expect, the websites these texts lead you to are fake and extort your sensitive information and your money.

And there’s more. Robotexts are being used to do more than steal from you. They’re being used to sow mass confusion. Many false information campaigns have been identified, particularly around last year’s presidential election. Others have been identified as pushing fake government stimulus plans and peddling other “free” offers. The sky is unfortunately the limit for robotext scammers for disinformation potential.

5. Scammers Still Know Precisely What Carriers To Target

We’ve already mentioned the blocking robocalls framework STIR/SHAKEN that the telecom industry has adopted nationwide. The thing is, as of now, only Tier-1 carriers are universally adopting it (remember they have until the last day of June this year to implement). Despite these measures, the 2-year extension we mentioned at the beginning of this article leaves a wide window open for scammers to continue wreaking havoc. It’s provided them with a route that they can use with minimal detection.

To put it plainly, almost 100% of robocalls originate from numbers not owned by Tier-1 carriers. And probably this won’t stop until these small carriers implement STIR/SHAKEN and other mitigation solutions. Hopefully, for all of our sakes, it happens sooner than later.

Blocking Robocalls in Canada: What To Do About It in 2021–Conclusion

The world’s response to COVID-19 has certainly altered- at least for the time being–how we live, work, and learn. But 2021 remains brighter. Yes, despite the lockdown’s positive effect on robocall campaigns, these bad guys are back at it stronger than ever. But new protective technologies will make it harder for them to succeed, as will our efforts to educate ourselves on these matters. Stay informed on the tactics they use and the new fiendish campaigns. There will always be scammers that take advantage of us, particularly during the age of COVID. You can avoid falling victim in this year and get better at blocking robocalls by fortifying your own intellectual defenses.