CRTC urged to help end phone fraud

OTTAWA — The CRTC is being asked to halt the growing problem of tele-hackers who set up fake 1-900 numbers in order to rack up large telephone bills from unsuspecting individuals and businesses.

OTTAWA — The CRTC is being asked to halt the growing problem of tele-hackers who set up fake 1-900 numbers in order to rack up large telephone bills from unsuspecting individuals and businesses.

Ottawa’s Telepath Corp. has asked the regulator to place a $1,000 limit on calls to special services such as advice and sex lines during any billing period, unless the owner of the telephone line confirms the activity.

The CRTC looked into the issue four years ago without creating new regulations, but a consumer advocacy group believes the time has come to take a second look.

“The bottom line is that the telephone companies are best able to control activity on their networks and protect all of us,” said Michael Janigan, executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

Telepath, a boutique wholesaler of telephone lines with about 200 business clients, made the appeal to the CRTC after becoming a victim this winter, when fraudsters racked up $100,000 in calls by hacking into the telephone lines of two of its clients.

Company president Dali Bertolila said he was frustrated with Rogers, which he said has threatened to cut off service if he does not begin to make payments next week.

And he said he is frustrated that the government and the broadcast regulator appears to have washed their hands of the issue.

“It’s a very serious problem,” said Bertolila. “When somebody gets hit, they get hit hard. It’s not $1,000, it’s $100,000 or $200,000. ”

“The fact is we are complicit in handing over our hard earned cash to criminals, who could be terrorists as far as anybody knows.”

He equated the position of the telecoms to blaming the victim in cases of credit card fraud.

Rogers spokeswoman Nancy Cottenden said the telecom does monitor its network for signs of unusual traffic, but cannot do so with the individual clients of re-sellers of services like Telepath.

“Our contract with Telepath stipulates that it is their responsibility to monitor the activity of their individual clients and their responsibility to detect and alert (them) of unusual activity,” she said.

She did agree with Bertolila that telephone fraud is a major problem and that perpetrators “are becoming more sophisticated.”

A CRTC spokesman said the commission would look into the matter once it has reviewed the request.

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