Police are warning people not to pick up incoming calls from a number pretending to be the Toronto police line and asking those who pick up for credit card information.
“It is essentially fraud,” Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook said Thursday, who added that Toronto police are investigating the fake calls made using their “unique,” non-emergency line 416-808-2222.
The calls appear to be coming from an advertising company, making automated “robo-calls” in Mandarin, said Const. Alex Li in an interview.
“We began to receive reports of this today and believe it could be dangerous for those who engage in the calls,” Li said.
“We can’t say for sure if the calls are targeted.”
According to the Toronto police website, the line primarily functions for people to report on incidents that do not require immediate assistance, such as thefts, vandalism and fraud.
“The issue is this number is in-bound only, so we would never make calls ourselves from it,” Li said.
“And, if we do, it usually would be a caller-ID blocked number.”
Asked how someone could hack the police line for a scam like this, Li said, “with so many changes in technology and the way we communicate, criminals have also began to utilize that technology. There’s nothing that’s 100 per cent foolproof.”
Steve Bartlett, 49, said he’d received a call from the line around 1 p.m. Thursday.
“I couldn’t pick up because I was away from my phone,” he told the Star. Bartlett provided a copy of the message left in his voicemail box when he couldn’t answer the phone.
Bartlett said he tried to redial the number displayed as a Toronto police line, “thinking it must be something very important.”
He said an automated voice on the other side then said, “this number is for outgoing calls only.”
“I get calls like this all the time and my concern is about blocking legitimate numbers because of spoof calls like this,” Bartlett said.
“What if I get a call later that’s actually real?”
It’s important for people to remain wary when they’re asked to give out their personal information, Li said.
“Never give out your Social Insurance Number, banking information, home address or anything that could potentially victimize you in such a crime,” he said.
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Temur Durrani is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @temurdur