Ian Scott, Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
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Thank you for inviting us to speak on the topic of fraudulent calls in Canada – an issue that has been of particular concern for the CRTC. As you know, we participated in this Committee’s study in March 2020, and we are pleased to provide an update on our activities.
I’m joined today by Steven Harroun, the CRTC’s Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer, and Alain Garneau, Director of Telecommunications Enforcement.
Unwanted calls, which often are fraudulent in nature, seek to not only take advantage of Canadians, but also undermine their confidence in the telecommunications system. One of our priorities over the last few years has been to better protect Canadians and prevent as many of these calls from reaching them as possible.
There is no single solution – no silver bullet – that will put an end to this scourge. That is why we have put in place a robust strategy that relies on a number of technical and regulatory solutions.
To begin with, for the past two years, telecommunications service providers have been required to block calls that contain numbers which could normally not be dialed, such as a number appearing as 000-000-0000 on your call display. Alternatively, providers could instead offer their subscribers call-filtering services, which provide more advanced call-management features.
Callers can also act in bad faith by using fake caller IDs to conceal their identities and their intentions – a practice known as caller ID spoofing. To combat this illegitimate practice, we required service providers to implement STIR∕SHAKEN in June of last year.
Essentially, this technology enables providers to confirm whether a caller’s identity can be trusted by authenticating and verifying the caller ID information for Internet Protocol-based calls. This allows Canadians to determine which calls are legitimate and which need to be treated with caution.
We are awaiting the first annual reports from the providers, which will help us assess how the implementation has progressed and the results STIR∕SHAKEN has yielded over the past year. We do know, however, that many of the technical issues have been resolved and that smaller providers are coming on board.
Moreover, artificial intelligence is a promising new weapon in the fight against fraudulent calls. Bell Canada developed a solution using AI to block calls that are confirmed as fraudulent in the company’s network. Encouraged by the results of a 15-month trial conducted by Bell, we approved its application to implement this technology on a permanent basis in December 2021. To date, including the trial period, more than 1.5 billion calls have been successfully intercepted in Bell’s network and blocked.
The CRTC is also working with the telecommunications industry to develop a process to trace calls back to their point of origin in the network. The industry conducted a trial that yielded positive results, and so we directed providers to begin the rollout of the process toward its full deployment. The intelligence that we will be able to gather by pinpointing the origin of nuisance calls will help improve our enforcement efforts.
Of course, we continue to oversee the National Do Not Call List. Canadians have registered more than 14.6 million numbers on the list since it launched in 2008. Complaints submitted through the list operator help to inform our outreach efforts and enforcement actions.
Our ongoing work with the industry, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and the RCMP enables us to exchange information on nuisance communications. We are also in regular contact with a number of federal departments and agencies, including the Canada Revenue Agency, the Competition Bureau, Shared Services Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada and the Communications Security Establishment. Through this engagement, we can warn Canadians of illegitimate campaigns in a timely way to help them avoid becoming victims of fraud.
This Committee is well aware, however, that the issue of fraudulent calls is not limited to Canada. It is a problem in most English-speaking countries. In the United States alone, it is estimated that 2,100 robocalls are sent to consumers every second. Many of our enforcement partners abroad share our commitment to combatting nuisance communications. In particular, we have established formal agreements to share information and expertise, as well as provide investigative support, with our counterparts in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
Through all these initiatives, and with the help of the industry and our domestic and international enforcement partners, we are making significant progress in protecting Canadians and restoring faith in the Canadian telecommunications system.
We would be happy to answer your questions.