ComReg urges telecoms firms to do more to tackle scam calls

ComReg urges telecoms firms to do more to tackle scam calls

Statistics from the Central Statistics Office show that there was a 90% increase in fraud incidents last year, which it said was 'largely driven by unauthorised transactions and attempts to obtain personal or banking information online or by phone'. File photo

Phone companies must do more to combat the scourge of scam calls and reduce their impact on Irish households, the communications regulator has said.

Action is already under way to help reduce the number of calls that appear to be originating from an Irish number, which the regulator said may “notably lessen” the volumes of calls currently being received.

ComReg set up a taskforce late last year, made up of telecoms companies, aimed at preventing the public from falling victim to scammers who call up and seek to acquire personal details.

Statistics from the Central Statistics Office show that there was a 90% increase in fraud incidents last year, which it said was “largely driven by unauthorised transactions and attempts to obtain personal or banking information online or by phone”.

The regulator’s taskforce has met on seven occasions to date, with several potential interventions scoped out.

The Irish Examiner submitted a freedom of information request for the minutes of meetings held by the taskforce since its establishment. Most of the information was redacted because the work of the taskforce “is of crucial national importance”.

The response also said the work of the taskforce “will be severely undermined and potentially jeopardised if information discussed at the taskforce supplied by third parties, including telecommunications operators who are members of the taskforce, is revealed publicly”.

'Spoofing'

Nevertheless, the regulator has since posted a general update on its progress to date. It said that phone companies are now “free to proactively deploy interventions”. One of these interventions is a “Do Not Originate” trial which is underway. 

Many companies will use phone numbers that are only used for inbound calls to provide services to customers. Fraudsters will sometimes originate calls to make it look like they are coming from these numbers to trick people into answering calls.

This method is dubbed “spoofing” by the regulator. To address it, ComReg has compiled a “do not originate” list, comprising phone numbers that are never used for outbound calls so that they can be blocked by operators.

However, going forward, ComReg said further proactive work will be required by the telecoms companies to help stymie new or evolving types of “nuisance communications”.

Among those actions is establishing cross-sector co-operation on the issue and, “ultimately”, the development of an “overarching long-term national strategy to combat nuisance communications”.

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From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

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