When your industry is losing almost $40 billion USD a year to criminals, turning a collective blind eye shouldn’t really be an option, or so you’d think. And let’s be clear, that sum is no exaggeration. Where telecoms fraud is concerned, the losses really are that big. According to the Communications Fraud Control Association’s (CFCA) 2021 annual survey, total global telecom revenues were estimated to be approximately USD 1.8 Trillion last year. The total amount of loss due to fraud was estimated to be 2.22% of revenues or $39.89 Billion (1).
Worryingly, as the sizeable dollar amount that continues to leak away suggests, many Communications Service Providers struggle to get to grips with the problem of fraud (or, alternatively, perhaps some simply accept it and write off the loss). That’s a mistake, both because today most fraudulent schemes can be effectively countered with the latest fraud prevention technology and also because there’s a significant financial gain from doing so. Innovative CSPs deploying effective anti-fraud technologies are showing (and leading) the way.
Among them, Telenor Global Services provides a case study in how to lead the way. In 2020, the operator stopped over 200 million questionable call attempts that had a combined estimated value above 30 million USD. That’s in large part because the company put its foot down. Telenor has implemented a zero-tolerance policy towards the fraudsters. And clearly, it’s working.
Paying attention to combatting fraud has always mattered. Since the pandemic arrived two years ago, it’s become even more important as increased reliance on communications networks in place of person-to-person interactions has multiplied the opportunities for fraudsters. Telenor’s policy has therefore not only been effective, but timely. Underlining the point, there’s been a significant reduction of ‘’successful’’ attacks through the Telenor network in recent months – first, highlighting the success of the counter measures in place and, second, begging the question of whether fraudsters might have acknowledged the effectiveness of the operator’s measures and simply moved on to other, easier targets. Will your network be next?
One area of success worth highlighting is how Telenor has countered Wangiri fraud, a common scheme that fraudsters use to trick end users. It works when the telco’s end customer receives a missed call, usually coming from an international number. When the customer calls back (and a large number do just that) they are connected to a premium rate number and heavily charged, the profit going to the fraudster. Part of the ruse is tricking the caller into remaining on the line for as long as possible, allowing the charges to ramp up. Pre-recorded messages are one device used for this purpose.
Telenor’s determination to address the fraud question was borne of its commitment to the principle of the company acting as a trusted partner to its customers. To fail to tackle fraud would, therefore, be to fail to adhere to its values. But taking the necessary steps presented an immediate challenge: How do you secure legitimate calls going through the network while weeding out fraudulent ones?
At Telenor Global Services, the answer was to specify and then implement a fraud protection system that recognised internally defined patterns, made network traffic visible, and enabled interventions before questionable calls reached the end user.
These steps recognised the operator’s two main objectives. The first was to stop unwanted traffic on the network. The second was to be in position to stop the payments that might illegally result from that traffic. The two goals are symbiotic; achieving one requires achieving the other for the approach to be effective.
To put a stop to unwanted voice traffic, Telenor specified and built its own Fraud Portal partnering with expert solutions provider, Utel. At the heart of its new portal’s many advantages, visibility is first among equals. The portal was designed to deliver real-time insights into what’s happening in the network, knowledge that was essential for detecting fraudulent traffic. And those insights are what Utel and Telenor achieved. From there, what can be detected can be stopped via alerts and actions again generated within the portal itself.
Presently, the portal is mostly deployed to counter fraud related to voice traffic but that’s changing fast as more services are added.
The simple reality where telco fraud is concerned is this: if criminals can make money from their crimes, they’re not going to stop committing them. In fact, telco losses will likely mount as fraudsters become more sophisticated and operators taking inadequate steps to counter their activities fall further behind. Things change only when all fraud payments are stopped. And that’s not a pipe dream. Telenor entered 2021 with zero fraud disputes. Additionally, it receives credit notes from its partners where appropriate in the wake of fraudulent activity. As for Wangiri fraud, that particular flavour of scam has disappeared completely along with many other unwanted calls that are now identified early enough to stop any payments that might ensure.
The power is in the portal. When it comes to fraud, the Utel-Telenor platform has been the great leap forward. And it’s being extended as Telenor prioritises the need for a common fraud detection platform that spans across its partners’ businesses. Thus, the operator continues to enrich its portal with more services, and to enrol more partners in readiness for the increasingly mobile world of the years ahead where innovations like IoT, 5G, and others will likely yield new opportunities to fraudsters.
Telenor has taken a leading position in the battle against fraudsters – ensuring that all fraudulent calls are stopped when detected. If you’d like to discuss the challenges and requirements of an effective strategy with the experts at Utel or Telenor who were responsible for the platform that’s already delivering, please get in touch.