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Why Irish phone companies can't clamp down on scam calls

Adrian Weckler says such scams will likely mean the death of SMS texting in Ireland
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

20.01 26 Oct 2021


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Why Irish phone companies can'...

Why Irish phone companies can't clamp down on scam calls

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

20.01 26 Oct 2021


Share this article


A rise in scam calls and texts is putting SMS texting "into a grave" in Ireland.

That's according to Adrian Weckler, technology editor with the Irish Independent.

He as speaking amid an increasing number of scam phone calls and texts to people in recent months - whether they are pretending to be from the Department of Social Protection, Revenue or even the Attorney-General's office.

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He told The Hard Shoulder the way the 'spoofing' is done means there is little telecoms providers can do.

"You might often see a number come up on your phone - 083, 085, 087, 086 - and that is not an 086, it's not a Vodafone, an eir or a 3 number.

"That is a number coming from somewhere outside the jurisdiction, but it's a term called spoofing.

"It's made to look like it's a number from inside the State, and that is something that is very, very difficult - the operators say - to actually fight against.

"They say if the call originates within the country on their own network, it's very easy for them to clamp down and shut down.

"But they say that almost all of these calls or texts are originating from outside the State."

In texting scams, where a fake text appears in the middle of an apparent genuine message thread, Adrian says operators aren't sure how to stop it.

"They spoof that particular gateway and they get into the middle of that.

"The operators say they don't really know how to have a foolproof way of combatting that.

"They say this is the way the telecommunications SMS system works".

'Destroying what remains of SMS'

And he says the inability to stop such scams is destroying what is left of the SMS texting market.

"We are talking about text messages and calls - we're not talking, really, about WhatsApp messages or iMessages on iPhone.

"And I can tell you now: just in the same way that the mobile operators destroyed their foreign calling business in the '90s by charging €10,000 a minute or whatever it was - they're currently destroying what remains of the SMS system in Ireland.

"Why on Earth would you rely on this system, when you've got these other Telegram and WhatsApp and iMessage which don't get affected which don't get affected to the same extent by these scams.

"So they're kind of 'not fixing' their way into a grave here".

The difference between WhatsApp and standard text messaging? End-to-end encryption.

"This is literally what stops scams and texts and calls of this nature", Adrian adds.

But he says that is just part of the problem, as there is no real impetus to punish the scammers.

"There is no meaningful regulation or law to punish them for it.

"So the motivation to do something about it isn't really there."

Why Irish phone companies can't clamp down on scam calls

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Main image: Composite image shows a woman using her mobile phone, and a scam text message seen on a smartphone screen. Picture by: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Imagesmundissima/Alamy Stock Photo

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Adrian Weckler Eir Encryption IMessage Scam Calls Scam Phone Calls Scammers Spoofing Telegram The Hard Shoulder Vodafone WhatsApp

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