The federal telecom regulator is reminding Canadians to stay vigilant on their cellphones as more phishing messages are being sent by text.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) told Global News on Thursday that between July and September, 83 per cent of all phishing messages reported to its spam reporting centre were sent as texts.
While spam messages sent by email are still the most common type of spam reported, a CRTC spokesperson said in a statement “a shift does appear to be happening for the category of phishing messages.” Phishing messages are designed to manipulate the recipient into revealing sensitive personal information, often by clicking on a link.
From Jan. 1 to Oct. 18, there have been 2,157 reports of spam texts submitted to the spam reporting centre, compared with 4,050 reports of email spam and 32,826 complaints for unsolicited calls, they said, citing data gathered by the CRTC’s compliance and enforcement team.
Separately, between Jan. 1 and Oct. 20, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reported 5,136 phishing texts, 2,321 phishing emails and 17,078 fraudulent phone calls, a spokesperson told Global News Friday.
“Of all the spam text messages submitted to the spam reporting centre, approximately 54 per cent are phishing, 18 per cent are unknown (insufficient information was provided in the complaint), 17 per cent are commercial and affiliate marketing messages, and five per cent are other forms of scams,” the CRTC spokesperson said.
Among phishing text messages, the most common complaints were of impersonation of large or well-known companies like telephone service providers and streaming service providers. Others included government impersonation and financial sector impersonation.
“While not our top category of complaint by volume, we are concerned by the complaints made to us this summer and fall concerning text message extortion containing threats of violence (including death threats),” the spokesperson said.
“A rise in this kind of violent text message has been observed also by partner agencies.”
Telephone numbers and personal information can be bought, sold or traded online through the dark web, which are a set of pages that can’t be indexed by search engines and aren’t even viewable in a standard browser, according to Daniel Tsai, lecturer in law, technology and culture at the University of Toronto.
He told Global News in February that when the information reaches the dark web, it normally means it’s been hacked.
The CRTC said there are a few signs Canadians may look for to know if the message they’re getting is a spam text. Among those signs:
- if the message asks for sensitive information
- if it impersonates people or companies you know
- if it contains spelling and grammar mistakes
- if it asks for money in advance
- if it uses scare tactics
- if it seems too good to be true
“Spam often uses language designed to spark fear. For example, if a message says your account will be deleted if you don’t respond, it’s probably spam,” the CRTC spokesperson said.
“If the text offers prizes or money, or says you won a trip, beware. Don’t supply personal information or click buttons within the text message to claim a prize.”
The spokesperson added that if Canadians feel they have received a spam text, do not respond to it, don’t open any attached files, and don’t click any buttons to open web pages. They also advised Canadians report the text to the federal government.
— with files from Global News’ Irelyne Lavrey