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There are two kinds of silent calls:
- Phone fraud: Silent calls are often the first step in a phone fraud scheme that could lead to your identity being stolen or your bank account being drained. The silence on the other end of the phone is actually a computer gathering information about you; any small noise, like a cough, can signal to the computer that the number just dialed is an active line, answered by a human. Once the computer notes a person has answered the call, the numbers are gathered and sold to criminals, who use them to get personal information. Phone fraud can take many forms. In addition to silent calls, one of the most common types is vishing.
- Telemarketing blips: In Canada, a silent call is a telephone call from a telemarketing agency that does not have an agent immediately available to handle the call when you answer. In this instance, the call may be suddenly terminated and you hear silence (“dead air”) or you may hear a dial tone from the telephone company indicating the call has been dropped. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in its regulations for telemarketers, refers to a silent call as an “abandoned call.”
How does it work?
The majority of silent or abandoned calls are made and caused by automated calling systems known as dialers, or predictive dialers. These dialers, mainly used in call centres, dial telephone numbers automatically and connect people to call centre agents as soon as the phone is answered.
But dialers don’t always work as they should. For example:
- If the dialer makes a call but there is no call centre agent on hand to deal with it, the person being called will hear silence on the other end of the line.
- When the technology used by call centres to detect an answering machine mistakes you for the answering machine, it cuts off the call without playing an information message, or before you hear anything.
What you can do
If you are being annoyed by silent calls, or unwanted calls from telemarketers, you can have your number put on the National Do Not Call Registry. This way, your telephone number will not be available to automatic dialers. There are some exceptions, so it’s best to check the website. You can also try blocking individual numbers to avoid specific callers.
If you are still getting calls, you can complain about any that violate any unsolicited telecommunications rules (this includes automated dialing-announcing device rules). To file a complaint, you will need:
- Your phone number (where the call was received)
- The name and phone number of the telemarketer
- The date you received the call
The next time you answer the phone and all you hear is silence, don’t panic. In fact, don’t say anything at all. Just hang up. You’ve most likely just avoided a pitch from a telemarketer or even better, foiled a possible plan for telephone fraud! We encourage you to share this article with the people you care about to help protect them against silent calls and other scams.
Each time the phone now rings it feels like a thief is breaking into your home. Sure enough, you check the call display and recognize the number as a telemarketer who keeps pestering you – despite your best efforts to get them to stop. When it gets to this point and nothing works, it’s time to file an official complaint. But how?
How’d they get your number anyway?
If you don’t recall giving out your phone number to a telemarketing company, chances are you probably didn’t. According to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) website, telemarketers can get it without your consent or knowledge in a few ways:
- From companies that are in the business of generating lists of numbers
- From contest forms or applications that you fill out
- By selecting random numbers to call
- From companies that you deal with
Does having caller ID help screen calls?
The point of caller ID is to allow us to identify who is calling and if we wish to speak to that person. However, some sly telemarketers will mask or falsify the caller ID by using a practice called “spoofing”, a strong indication the call may not be legitimate.
- A spoofed number can appear as a string of digits (e.g., 000-000-0000 or 123-456-7890), a random number, another company or someone’s actual number
- Telephone fraud, called vishing, is very much like computer fraud, referred to as "phishing" or "brand spoofing" according to the RCMP, in that callers deliberately misrepresent who they are to trick people into keying in information such their account numbers, personal identification numbers (PINs), or passwords using the telephone keypad. The fraudster can also ask the victims to confirm some personal information like home address and place of work.
If you receive a telemarketing call you believe has a spoofed caller ID, or keep getting unwanted calls, by law you're entitled to file a complaint. Where should you begin?
How to kick-start the complaint process
There are four key steps involved should you wish to file a formal complaint to the CRTC against an aggressive telemarketer who won't take “no” for an answer.
1. Register your number with the DNCL
Before filing a complaint, you must first register your number with the National Do Not Call List (DNCL). Although this will reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive on your residential, wireless, cell, fax or VoIP telephone, it will not eliminate them completely. Why? Some are exempt from the DNCL rules including telemarketing calls made by, or on behalf of:
- Canadian registered charities
- Political parties, riding associations and candidates
- Newspapers of general circulation for the purpose of soliciting subscriptions
2. Answer your phone
If your number is registered with the National DNCL and telemarketers continue to harass you, you should still pick up even if you know the caller is a telemarketer. The reason? To gather information that the CRTC could potentially use against people or companies that don't comply with the DNCL guidelines.
3. Collect details of your conversation with the telemarketer
Before filing a complaint with the CRTC, you’ll need the following information:
- The telephone number that received the telemarketing call
- The telephone number and name of the telemarketer that appeared on the caller ID screen or that the person on the phone gave you
- The date of the call
- The exact time of the call as it appeared on the caller ID screen
- Whether your complaint relates to a fax, residential, or business number
- Any other information you have that relates to the call
4. Report the incident as soon as possible
After you have this information, you can file a complaint in one of several ways:
- Online through the National DNCL website.
- By phone (toll-free) at 1-866-580-DNCL (1-866-580-3625).
- If you are calling from a TTY device at 1-888-DNCL-TTY (1-888-362-5889).
The sooner you report the incident, the better. Generally, the details will be fresher in your mind and the trail for investigators will still be warm.
- To formally file a complaint about fraudulent calls or a spoofing incident, you can contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.
What happens next?
The National DNCL operator collects all consumer complaints, conducts an initial assessment of each one, then hands them over to the CRTC. The CRTC then determines whether a complaint warrants further investigation and may:
- Ask for additional details from the consumer
- Require more information, on-site visits and/or interviews with the telemarketer
- Request information from third parties, e.g., telecommunications service providers
The potential outcome
If the CRTC determines a telemarketer has violated a DNCL rule, it can take measures to bring telemarketers into compliance, including issuing a citation requiring the telemarketer to take immediate corrective action.
- In some cases, if they do not comply, they may be fined $1,500 for an individual and $15,000 for a corporation.
Although many companies use telemarketing as an honest means to market their products or services, most people find the practice to be intrusive and annoying. So the next time the phone rings and it’s a telemarketer, it’s good to know you can do something to put an end to the calls.
Since unscrupulous telemarketers are everywhere, why not share this article with friends and family so they’ll also know how to stop unwanted calls.
Have you or someone you know ever been a victim of vishing? The term, which blends the word ‘voice’ with ‘phishing,’ refers to a telephone scam to trick people into revealing critical financial or personal information that can be used for identity theft. Read on to find out what you can do to avoid this happening to you, and what to do if you are a victim of vishing.
Vishing: what does that even mean?
We’ve all heard of phishing: those emails that pop up in your inbox, usually from a financial institution, urging you to click on a link and enter some personal information to fix your account. In reality, the link leads to a convincing, but fake, website, and your personal information is used to access your accounts or for identity fraud. The goal of vishing is similar, but the scam takes place over the phone using voice technology and reaches people through:
- Voice email
- Voice over IP (VolP)
- Cell phones
How it works
A potential victim receives a phone call from a computer-generated voice. The message of the call is that there has been suspicious activity in a credit card account, bank account, mortgage account or other financial service in the victim’s name.
The victim is then told to call a specific toll-free telephone number and provide personal information, like a bank account number, to “verify your identity” or to “ensure that fraud does not occur.” Sometimes the victim is asked to transfer money into a new, ‘safe’ account.
If the attack is carried out by telephone, do not rely on caller ID: the person doing the vishing can use a caller ID spoofing software that will show a legitimate source on the victim’s phone. (Spoofing is a practice that allows a caller to hide their identity. It shows a caller ID other than their actual number on the receiving phone’s caller ID display. This is often done by callers with malicious intent.)
What to do if you suspect vishing?
To avoid becoming a victim of vishing, always be suspicious of any unsolicited telephone message that sounds like you may be a target of illegal activity. Then follow these steps:
- Don’t give out any personal information until you have verified whether the company is legitimate.
- Instead of calling the number given in the unsolicited message, call the financial institution or company in question using a phone number you have looked up yourself, to verify all recent activity and to ensure that the account information has not been tampered with.
- Contact the Better Business Bureau in your province or territory and ask questions about the company.
What if vishing happens to you?
If you are a victim of vishing and have provided personal information, write down what has happened and when the fraud began. Follow the steps below, taking notes on the people you spoke with and exactly what they said.
- Contact your local police and file a police report.
- Contact all companies with accounts you feel may have been compromised.
- Contact the two credit bureaus in Canada, Equifax and TransUnion. Ask that a “Fraud Alert” be placed in your credit file. At the same time, order copies of your credit report and review them. Make sure all the accounts and debts that show up on your report are yours. Report any incorrect information to the credit bureaus.
- Report the incident to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) toll free at 1-888-495-8501 to report the fraud and get advice.
No one wants to be scammed and by arming yourself with some basic information – and protecting your personal information – you can avoid becoming a victim of vishing. We encourage you to share this article with the people you care about to help protect them against vishing and other scams.
Whether it’s a pushy telemarketer or someone you just don’t want to speak to, technology makes it easy to block phone numbers and prevent certain callers from getting through to you. Here are 6 ways to help end those annoying call:
1. Register on the National Do Not Call List (DNCL)
Unwanted calls happen for various reasons, but the bulk of them come from telemarketers trying to push their products or services to consumers over the phone.
A first step towards reducing the number of unwanted calls is to get on the National Do Not Call List (DNCL), managed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
- It’s quick, easy and free to register your numbers on the National DNCL website, including all of your residential, wireless, fax or VoIP telephone numbers.
- You may also register by calling toll-free at 1-866-580-DNCL or, if you use a TTY device, by dialling 1-888-DNCL-TTY.
Although registering on the DNCL will reduce the number of undesirable calls you receive, it won’t completely stop them. Certain organizations, including Canadian registered charities, political parties and businesses to whom you have given consent to contact you, are exempt.
2. Stop telemarketing calls before they start
The next step towards blocking telemarketers from contacting you is to ensure they don’t get your number to begin with – but how does that happen? Through a number of fairly innocent behaviours, including:
- When filling out online forms for such things as job applications, warranty cards, contests, service contracts, or to register to use the site, you may have forgotten to check the “I do not wish to be contacted” box.
- Similarly, you may not have unchecked the box that says something like, “I wish to be contacted with product offers and services that may be of interest to me,” often already checked off for your “convenience”.
When it’s time to step up your game…
If you’re still receiving a lot of unwanted calls after registering your numbers on the National DNCL and changing your habits concerning to whom you provide personal contact information, it’s time to up the ante and play hardball. What now?
3. Enable your smartphone’s built-in call blocking features
A modern smartphone has more computing power than the first mission to the Moon. Why not harness it to prevent unwanted callers from getting through to you?
- The procedure to block numbers on Android phones varies, from choosing a bunch of numbers you want blocked and selecting “Block number” to “Reject Calls”. The owner’s manual for your specific Android phone will provide you with more detail about what to do.
- To block phone numbers on any iPhone, under “Recents”, tap the lower-case “i” in a circle (which means “information”) next to the phone number or contact that you want to block. Scroll to the bottom of your screen, then tap “Block this Caller”.
4. Download a call blocking app on your smartphone
You’d be surprised at how many third-party smartphone apps exist specifically for detecting and blocking unwanted calls. They offer features beyond those available on your smartphone for keeping undesirable callers at bay.
- Although many are free, it might be worthwhile paying a few bucks for one that has received a lot of good reviews from actual users who have bought and used the app. As such, you’ll need to do a little reading. That doesn’t mean you should overlook the free apps. A lot depends on your needs.
- Depending on if you have an Android phone or iPhone, you’ll need an app that is compatible with your type of phone.
5. Protect your landline with a call blocker
Getting unwanted calls on your landline? Purchasing an inbound call blocker device might be the best choice to prevent nuisance numbers from getting through. These devices typically connect easily and quickly to your landline.
- Some require the caller to punch in a code. If a caller doesn’t have it (which a telemarketer wouldn’t) that caller can’t reach you. While this might be inconvenient for friends and family, it’ll put a stop to unsolicited calls and could be worth it if you’re being frequently harassed.
- Other types of call blocker boxes have call displays, whereby if you answer the phone only to realize it’s a telemarketer or some other undesirable caller, you can “blacklist” that number at the touch of a button and prevent the caller from getting through again. There is usually a feature to “Remove” the number from being blocked if you did so in error.
6. File a formal complaint with the CRTC
Despite your best efforts, sometimes unsolicited calls just keep getting through. For those aggressive and annoying callers (specifically telemarketers) who won’t take “no” for an answer, the solution may be to file a formal complaint to the CRTC, which usually requires four steps on your part:
- Ensure all your phone numbers are registered with the National DNCL.
- Answer the phone even when a suspected telemarketer calls.
- Collect as much detail as possible during the call.
- Report the incident without delay, including the details you gathered during the call.
Why unwanted calls are sometimes more than just annoying
Phone fraud (called "vishing") and Internet fraud (referred to as "phishing" or "brand spoofing" by the RCMP) are among the most common types of scams that prey on Canadians from all walks of life. From seniors to students, people who are financially well-off to those who receive government aid, scammers make no distinction: anyone can fall victim to these anonymous thieves whose aim is to trick people out of their hard-earned money.
- While not every unwanted call you receive may have shady intentions behind it, being aware of the possibility never hurts. For that reason, we encourage you to share this article with the people you care about to help protect them against anyone who may want to take advantage of their trusting nature.