Traficom looks for ways to block international scam calls

The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom is working with Finnish telecommunications operators to find ways to prevent number spoofing, a method commonly used in scam calls. The aim is to make it more difficult for foreign criminals to operate in Finland and prevent these international call scams altogether.

Since last year, number spoofing in calls from abroad has been a major problem also in Finland. Number or caller ID spoofing means a practice where scammers change their caller ID to disguise the true origin of the call. The number of scam calls has continued to increase rapidly this year. According to the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), people in Finland have already lost EUR 7.1 million to fraudsters in technical support call scams in 2020 and 2021. Number spoofing only involves calls made to Finland from abroad. The practice is not an issue in calls made within Finland.

Within Finnish networks, telecommunications operators are required to ensure that numbers are authentic and correct, but it is currently practically impossible to identify the caller in incoming international calls and to verify whether the caller has the right to use the Finnish phone number in question.

To tackle the issue, Traficom has started working with telecommunications operators to find ways to prevent the caller’s number from being changed to mimic a Finnish number. These measures will be included in a Traficom regulation as legally binding requirements for telecommunications operators. This enables operators to ensure that a number belongs to a customer with a subscription and the right to use the number in question. Call recipients, on the other hand, can trust that calls from Finnish numbers are truly made from Finnish subscriptions. Moreover, customers with a Finnish telephone subscription and number can trust that their telephone numbers will not be used to commit crimes.

“Blocking calls from spoofed numbers is one way to stop scams and criminal activities. We are also preparing and implementing other measures to prevent fraud in collaboration with the National Bureau of Investigation and telecommunications operators, among others. However, despite these measures, we all still need to remember to never give our online banking details to anyone over the phone or allow a caller to access our computer, for example. It is also important to advice our families and friends to never do so either,” says Director Jukka-Pekka Juutinen from the National Cyber Security Centre Finland at Traficom.

Finnish telephone subscriptions and numbers can still be used to call Finland from abroad. Companies operating in Finland can also continue to buy and provide exchange or call centre services from abroad. In this case, interconnection traffic must be organised in cooperation with telecommunications operators so that it is possible to identify calls coming from the corporate exchange and to verify the caller’s right to use the number. Companies should ensure that the call services they buy from foreign companies comply with this requirement to avoid their calls being blocked in the future. In some cases, calls from abroad are already displayed as coming from an unknown number, if the number cannot be authenticated.

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Falsifying the caller’s telephone number to disguise it as a Finnish number is a tactic widely used by foreign criminals. Number spoofing is used to make Finnish victims more likely to believe these foreign scam calls are from a genuine number and to answer the call and reveal their online banking details or give criminals remote access to their computers, for example.

Examples of commonly used call scams:

  • technical support scam calls in which fraudsters pretend to be calling from an IT company to help the victim deal with an urgent information security issue
  • customer service calls from banks in which fraudsters impersonate bank personnel and pretend to help the victim deal with online banking issues.

The National Bureau of Investigation has told it has received numerous reports about fraudulent calls in 2020 and 2021. In the offences reported, number spoofing to disguise the caller’s number as a Finnish one has been a key element of the fraud. The same method is commonly used in other countries as well, and it is part of highly organised international crime. In recent years, people in Finland have also received plenty of calls where the caller’s number has been deliberately changed to a number used in some other country. The call appears to be coming from a certain country, such as the United Kingdom, but in reality the caller is in India, for example.

MEDIA ENQUIRIES

Lauri Isotalo, Development Manager, tel. +358 29 539 0668
Timo MurtoSenior Specialist, tel. +358 29 539 0508
Klaus NieminenChief Specialist, tel. +358 29 539 0528