Numbers with Saskatchewan area codes seem to be the targets. Text messages appearing to be from the likes of SaskPower, Saskatoon Light & Power and Rogers claim to offer the recipient a refund.
In reality, the user is taken to a bogus page masquerading as an Interac e-transfer website where the person is prompted to enter personal banking information.
“Ultimately they’re so dynamic and so sporadic, that it’s nearly impossible for SaskTel or any other wireless provider to prevent these messages from coming through,” SaskTel’s external communications manager, Greg Jacobs, said.
In some cases, the scammers are not based in Canada, making them more difficult to track.
Even if a wireless provider shuts down a number or an email address, scammers often transition to a new one, Jacobs said.
The perpetrators usually get access to the cell numbers by comprising a company database or using a legitimate service to send text messages in bulk, according to Jon Coller, chief information security officer at the University of Saskatchewan.
“Those SMS (short message service) providers are legitimate businesses, so it would be very difficult for a telecom company to block those providers without having a bigger impact on their customers,” Coller said.
Fake electronic transfer sites can be set up using prepaid credit cards or stolen credit card information, Coller said.
The City of Saskatoon and SaskPower never conduct financial transactions through text messaging.
People who encounter scam messages should contact their local police department or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.