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17.6.2022 13:27

Traficom and telecom operators cooperate to tackle phone scams

In May, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, Traficom, placed new obligations upon telecom operators to prevent caller ID spoofing and rerouting of scam phone calls. Finnish providers are involved in this work, but business owners who have bought services from cloud providers should check their contracts. The reform will enter into force in July. 

In mid-May, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, Traficom, amended a regulation to place new obligations on telecom operators to prevent caller ID spoofing and scam calls being rerouted to subscribers. 

The goal of the reformed Regulation 28 is to prevent Finnish numbers from being used for criminal purposes internationally and to reduce the number of scam calls being made from other countries. The obligations to prevent the use of caller ID spoofing enter into force gradually: for the landline network on 1 July 2022 and for the mobile network on 2 October 2023.

The use of spoofed caller IDs in scam calls from abroad has become a significant problem in recent years in Finland. The purpose of scam calls may be to trick the answerer into giving the caller remote control of his or her computer under the guise of a call from technical support. Alternatively, the scam caller may try to obtain the person’s online banking codes. The National Bureau of Investigation has estimated that Finnish residents lost approximately €7.1 million because of scam technical support calls in 2020 and 2021.

Finnish telecom operators cooperate

Telecom providers in Finland were already obliged to ensure numbers were correct, but when calls are placed from abroad in general telephone traffic, it has been practically impossible to identify callers and verify whether they have the right to use the given Finnish phone number. The Regulation now sets clear obligations to check calls from abroad to see that the Finnish numbers have not been spoofed. That will prevent caller ID spoofing and the use of altered numbers in scam calls. It will also ensure that Finnish numbers can be trusted.

The reformed regulation has been prepared in close cooperation with telecom operators. A range of technical solutions to solve the problem at hand was reviewed with the providers, with the best solutions being chosen for implementation. For landline numbers, the obligations apply from the start of July 2022, and for Finnish mobile numbers, from October 2023.

“Finnish telecom operators have cooperated very well over the last year on our path to a common goal. The providers have from the start considered the new Regulation necessary to allow them to intervene in phone traffic to tackle crime. We believe that with the reformed Regulation 28 we can restore trust that a call from a Finnish phone number is really from a Finnish subscriber,” Development Manager Lauri Isotalo of the Cyber Security Centre at Traficom says.

Check functionality with your telecom operator

The Finnish operators DNA, Elisa, Telia and Ålcom, who are involved in the reform, all agree that this welcome development will provide useful tools for preventing caller ID spoofing. There are also clear benefits for customers: a caller can trust that a Finnish number identifies the origin of the call.

All services that provide telephone connections ought to be aware of the Regulation and the amendments to it. However, all of them will not necessarily be able to ensure that the safeguard mechanism works.

If business owners use switchboard or telephone exchange services via the cloud, they should make certain who is providing the service and that the provider is providing the necessary safeguard.

Phone services may be blocked

Businesses’ phone services may be blocked if they are not provided in line with the amended Regulation.

A Finnish phone subscription and number may still be used to call Finland from abroad, but the reformed regulation ensures that a Finnish phone subscriber’s number may not be used for criminal ends.

Under the reformed Regulation, businesses operating in Finland may continue to order and provide switchboard and call centre services for other businesses from abroad. The new Regulation 28 sets out how interconnection traffic must be arranged in cooperation with telecom operators to identify calls from a business switchboard and verify the caller’s right to use the number.

“We’d encourage businesses to familiarize themselves with the content of the reformed Regulation and ensure that the phone services they order from abroad are provided in accordance with Regulation 28 to ensure continuity of switchboard or call centre services,” Isotalo stresses.