When a Phone Scam Smells Phishy

This is the third time I’ve received the call, so perhaps this phone scam has traction.  I can see how someone might get a bit panicked by it, but the call comes in to the provincial lawyer regulator, so it’s clearly just spammed out a broad range of phone numbers.  I’m a little hurt that the scammers have fallen back on automated voice calls, where before there appeared to be a human.  Robots are taking the phone phishing calls too.

The text is somewhat garbled, as you’d expect, but the gist of the voice mail I had was this:

[garbled] this message. I need either you or your retained attorney return the call. The issue at the hand is extremely time sensitive.  [garbled] is 1-236-215-4335.  I repeat 1-236-215-4335.

Now don’t try to disregard this message and do return the call.  If you don’t return the call or if we don’t hear from your attorney either, the only thing we can do is wish you good luck as the situation is [garbled]

What a joke.  My favorite line is “the only thing we can do is wish you good luck.”  It sounds like this is the Canada Revenue Agency tax scam, although the phone caller’s delivery leaves something to be desired.  The same text is apparently being used for an Internal Revenue Service scam in the U.S..

This can be a trickier one if you’re not a lawyer or part of the justice system in Canada.  As I learned when I moved to Canada, lawyers are not called attorneys here.  So even though the call offers a Vancouver, B.C., phone number, the person calling doesn’t deal with Canadian lawyers.  But people who get their civics lessons from TV law shows may not be aware of this fine distinction.

I keep trying to picture the audience for this call.  It must be people who are likely to have a legal issue pending, and who are susceptible to pressure calls.  I called the number back but it just rang, no pick up.  Same with texting them.  [I used a burner phone number, so that may be one reason]

Unlike phishing e-mails, which are perhaps easier to complete, phone calls can be harder to track and verify.  If someone sends me an e-mail, I can do a bunch of things:

  • type the URL for the company into my browser, rather than click the link;
  • use a WHOIS tool to determine where the link is from;

A phone number is harder to trace, particularly in countries like Canada that have higher privacy standards or lower database standards.  Caller ID spoofing can hide the incoming number which, in any event, may not match the one they want you to call.  This information can be practically impossible to verify and someone can ditch phone numbers faster than they can be traced.

I doubt a lawyer would get this sort of call and respond.  If you know someone who has gotten this sort of call AND they have a reason to believe they have pending legal action OR have retained a lawyer, they should call their lawyer.  The lawyer can then take over and determine whether it is legit (it isn’t) or not.

David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.