The trick is subtle: the phone rings, an Austrian number—even one that seems familiar to you—appears on the display, and there is a fraud right next. Cases are rising, and more and more Austrian phone numbers are being stolen, hijacked and abused by criminals for their illegal masks. “Spoofing” is the term for that. In most cases, the number’s valid owner does not learn anything about it until it is too late.
In September alone, the telecommunications regulatory authority RTR had 2556 cases of misuse of its number. For comparison, in September 2022, there were only 70 cases. Also, the increase is visible in August: in 2022, there were 61 cases, and there have been 2229 this year.
“Such fraudulent calls have now increased enormously. Almost everyone has faced this in recent weeks and months,” says Florian Tursky (ÖVP), Secretary of State for Digitalization, of a natural wave of “spoofing” calls. The dark figure is likely even higher; not every victim would report every case to the authorities.
For the fraudsters, “capping” the Austrian numbers is a child’s game, explains Klaus Steinmaurer of the RTR. “It’s technically easy to do with a few applications.” Most of the time, the fraudsters would sit at the other end of the line in foreign call centers and ask for money from their victims. With the wrong bank advisor, policeman, or “daughter/son-trick,” there are currently a few standard tricks criminalist Horst Hakala knows. “There, for example, is simply called with the main number from the bank. Investigators have no chance to pursue that.”
What to do about it
Because of the rising numbers, the government wants to act against “spoofing” calls. Simply blocking the Austrian numbers is not an option, Tursky said. The unsuspecting real owners would then lose their number. Instead, it should be checked more carefully if an Austrian number calls from abroad.
More specifically, Austrian network operators such as Drei, Magenta, A1 and Co. will, in future, have to verify the number when calling from abroad to Austrian numbers at the “Is it plausible that this number calls from overseas?” explains Steinmaurer. Depending on whether the call is delivered or not.
A new “Communications Parameters, Fees and Value-added Services Regulation” is intended to require network operators to conduct such a review. The draft regulation went into a four-week consideration on Monday. For example, with A1, you are looking at how much the project makes sense and whether a timely implementation is possible, says spokesman Jochen Ohnewas-Schützenauer.
By the end of June next year, at the beginning of July, Tursky wants to give the operators time. “At the latest next summer, the abuse of telephone numbers will become history,” the secretary of state for digitalization is convinced.
- source: kleinezeitung.at/picture: pixabay.com
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