Is this the final call for telephone fraud?

Business Reporter talks to leading lights in the telecoms industry to discover whether they hold the key to combatting telephone fraud

Telephone fraud is a growing concern for businesses, a form of malicious activity amounting to a multi-billion pound business for criminals. Carrying financial damages more than double that of credit card fraud, it is an ongoing and ever-evolving threat with the global costs to businesses and consumers estimated to be £25.5billion per year. The UK is believed to be the world’s third most targeted country.

In response to this, BT has launched a fraud management solution for office-based telephone systems, using analytics from software company Tollring in a bid to prevent criminal activity before it takes place.

In the past, business customers were ultimately responsible for ensuring that their telephone system was secure, and they largely took on the cost of fraudulent activities and bad debts. But with more phone calls than ever being made over the internet, concerns over security have grown. Networks have become more vulnerable, with fraudsters continually evolving their techniques to make the detection and prevention of threats more difficult.

Spend capping has been a traditional approach to limiting damage from telecoms fraud, but this concedes fraud will occur and simply minimises risk. Fraudsters have evolved techniques to stay “under the radar”. Identifying such attacks is only achievable through intelligent analytics.

Steve Best, MD, Products and Commercial Management, BT Wholesale & Ventures, describes telephone fraud as one of the biggest challenges in the marketplace. “The BT solution with Tollring goes beyond capping – it’s about fraud prevention based on analysing levels of activity. Fraudsters are becoming increasingly astute, creating smaller and more frequent pickpocket-style hits that can go unnoticed. It renders the capping of a customer’s credit insufficient. By the time the activity is discovered, the hacker is likely to have racked up many thousands of pounds in fraudulent calls.  New technology from Tollring enables us to take a proactive stance and deliver a whole new level of real-time fraud detection and protection.”

Daisy Group is a provider of hosted voice services and a BT customer for the fraud management solution. Alex Mawson, Product Director, Voice Services at Daisy Group, says: “Since introducing BT’s fraud solution with Tollring’s analytics in summer 2017, we can detect fraud and misuse earlier and further reduce commercial exposure. Often fraudsters use automated systems to generate calls when businesses are closed and can stop the calls at set times to remain undetected for as long as possible. Receiving call and dialling activity data as quickly as possible is therefore key to successfully detecting misuse.”

According to Tony Martino, CEO of Tollring, specialists in communications analytics software, the focus is now on protection. “We must ensure that every link in the telecoms chain is protected against attack. Intelligent analytics is the only way to stop this type of fraud before it happens. By embedding intelligence and analytics tools into the network, we can give providers and their customers a whole new level of security.”

“Every call that crosses BT’s network now passes through rigorous checks,” adds BT’s Steve Best. “Machine-learning functionality with intelligent real-time analytics enables us to monitor behavioural patterns and call trends, and we can implement rules, trigger alerts and automatically block calls to protect against illegal usage and ‘bill shock’. Credit management becomes the final gatekeeper in the process, constraining spend to manage risk.”

How this works in action is outlined by Daisy’s Alex Mawson. “We can assign over 100 rule thresholds against a customer site, in addition to adding simple credit-locking values. Email alerts are sent when these levels are breached, then usage can be restricted. Alerts based on unusual calling patterns allow early analysis to identify fraud and misuse. The system can also automatically restrict services if thresholds are breached, providing considerable peace of mind.”

With customers increasingly reliant on phone companies as the custodians of their data, confidence in security has become paramount. Reputational damage arising from security breaches far outweighs potential financial losses to both customers and their providers, so as organisations’ objectives align there is a new shift towards shared responsibility for combatting fraud.

Customers are now looking to their providers for fraud protection, to ensure their phones and data remain secure and confidential. BT has set the bar high in the telecoms world by adopting new technology to fight against telephone fraud and is leading the way in promoting closer collaboration between providers and their customers around individual rules and limits. This encourages shared responsibility and helps BT to further step up against telephone fraud.