In an age of widely available solutions that address a myriad of challenges faced by telecoms operators, you could be forgiven for thinking that the industry is generally trending in the right direction when it comes to the stability and reliability of its core offerings. After all, where there’s an operational problem, there’s likely to be a solution close to hand.
But you’d be wrong to think that way. The growing issue of telecoms voice fraud, to cite one example, tells a very different story. Not only are things failing to improve. In fact, they’re getting worse.
Between 2019 and 2021, fraud in the telco industry increased by 28% (1). This is a source of urgent concern for security professionals. And the “boom” in fraud comes in the face, as noted, of the availability of advanced methods and tools specifically designed to combat the problem. The pressing question is, therefore, what can be done?
While the financial losses measured in sheer dollar value alone are reason enough to take steps to combat fraud, it’s worth noting the impact is also, though harder to measure, intangible. Bill shock, customer churn, trust, and reputational damage all number among the many unpleasant side effects of fraud. And while recovering the money is hard enough (better to prevent the loss in the first place), winning back lost trust is often even harder.
So where is all this fraud occurring? Telco fraud comes in a variety of flavours, leading among which are: International Revenue Sharing, Interconnect Bypass, Arbitrage, PBX Hacking, Traffic Pumping, Subscription Fraud, Account Takeover, SIM Jacking, Wangiri fraud, and Phishing. Each has its own character but considering Interconnect fraud alone is estimated to cost telcos $2.7 billion per annum (2), none can be ignored.
For network operators, the first and most logical line of defence in countering fraud lies in the Network Monitoring solution (NMS). While this is traditionally the vantage point from which telcos can maintain superior network quality and first-class customer experience by capturing information about traffic, it’s also a foundation for detecting and resolving network issues beyond those related simply to poor performance. Automated notifications generated by an NMS can quickly highlight fraudulent calling dynamically, alerting anti-fraud teams pro-actively, enabling fast termination of number ranges across the network.
The good news is that fraudulent calls can be identified, for instance by identifying high volume calls from number series with specific characteristics including known fraudulent number series, calls terminating in such series, call from number series marked as unassigned, premium-rate numbers, and roaming numbers. One specific example is how operators can use NMS to combat “Wangiri” fraud.
“Wangiri” fraud is a widely used tactic involving a scammer ringing a person’s number and immediately hanging up in the hope that the recipient will call back (which, unfortunately, is
often what happens). Here, the call back terminates in a premium-rate number. These scams are often sophisticated and can involve hacked PBX systems re-routing of phone calls or mass-calling premium-rate numbers or calling numbers that appear to belong to the same country as the called number (but, in reality, don’t).
To counter Wangiri (and other frauds) Network Monitoring probes can collect voice call signalling directly from the voice network and then generate Call Detail Records (CDRs) that provide a complete overview of the voice traffic across the network – allowing the telco to quickly identify traffic matching the patterns that emerge. In turn, calls that match fraudulent traffic profiles can be quickly identified, generating alerts to which the anti-fraud team can prioritise investigating urgently. This approach works. It’s estimated to reduce fraud management costs by up to 90% due to the efficient nature of the solutions monitoring and operation.
Utel provides a complete solution to help operators identify and then mitigate and prevent voice fraud, based on the combination of the Capture series of virtual and physical probes, the Insight module and the Analytics functions and dashboards. Together, these help telcos to detect and resolve issues before end customers are negatively impacted. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you tackle the billion-dollar fraud problem, please get in touch.