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Dispelling the top 5 myths about telecom fraud

George Perry George Perry
George Perry

Telecom fraud is a big problem for both providers and customers. In 2019 alone it cost the industry $28.3B USD, or about 1.74% of total revenues for the year. Preventing, detecting, and mitigating telecom fraud is the responsibility of both providers and their customers. But, there are also misconceptions around telecom fraud, and these myths can result in the proper steps not being taken, which in turn can result in the loss of money and reputation for both providers and their customers.

So we’re going to dispel some of the biggest myths around telecom fraud to ensure that everyone is equipped to help fight back against fraudsters.

Myth #1: I’m too small of a provider to be targeted by fraudsters

This is probably the biggest myth around telecom fraud. While larger providers know that they’re a target of telecom fraud, and often take steps to mitigate it, smaller providers work under the assumption that they don’t pass enough traffic to be worth targeting by fraudsters.

The reality is that any provider can be targeted for telecom fraud, and in fact smaller providers may even be a more desirable target as they often don’t have the same resources as larger providers to detect and mitigate fraud attempts. Robocalls often originate outside of the U.S., with bad actors looking for cracks to exploit, and obscure, small, low profile victims can provide a way as an intermediary to the larger U.S. carriers where fraudsters can cause greater damage. This can result in small providers being stuck with bills that can severely hurt their bottom line.

Myth #2: Telecom Fraud only impacts communication platforms with voice calling solutions embedded

Fraudsters are always looking for access points to implement their schemes. How they get that access doesn’t matter so long as they can gain a foothold somewhere. Since voice platforms use the same servers and computer systems as web sites and databases, they are just as vulnerable as any system that can be hacked. 

Regardless of whether you have your voice calling solution embedded or not, the threat of telecom fraud is a reality of being a communications provider, and something you need to take steps to protect yourself, and your customers, from.

Myth #3: Fraud only applies to international calling

It’s true that International Revenue Sharing Fraud (IRSF) is one of the most common types of telecom fraud. That does not, however, mean it’s the only type of telecom fraud. Toll-Free Fraud and Domestic Premium Rate Service are two other common types of telecom fraud, and they don’t rely on international calling.

Just because you as a provider don’t enable calling outside of your country doesn’t mean you can ignore taking steps to protect yourself and your customers against telecom fraud; while international may be their preferred channel, bad actors will take any opportunity they can find.

Myth #4: STIR/SHAKEN will prevent fraud from impacting me or my customers

STIR/SHAKEN is a great tool to help providers restore confidence in the calls they’re connecting. It is not, however, a one-stop solution for preventing telecom fraud. In fact, STIR/SHAKEN’s main use is to verify that a call being made is in fact from the owner of the telephone number.

While this can certainly help to prevent and mitigate some telecom fraud, it’s not the end-all-be-all, and even if you’ve implemented STIR/SHAKEN (which you need to; see our STIR/SHAKEN page for more information on that), ensuring that you protect your network, and that and you’re working with a provider that monitors for fraud 24/7, is the best way to fight back.

Myth #5: There’s nothing I can do to prevent telecom fraud

With all these myths it can feel like there’s nothing you can do to prevent telecom fraud. Not true! By following best practices like implementing security features such as multi-factor authentication, enabling port-out passcodes and port-out validation to protect your phone numbers, and educating your customers, you can stop a lot of bad actors.

Additionally, make sure you’re working with a provider that takes telecom fraud seriously. A lot of carriers have around-the-clock network support, but they may not be monitoring for fraud 24/7. You need a provider that has a vested interest in preventing bad actors on their network, and will take steps to mitigate telecom fraud quickly once it’s detected, either by stopping it on their end or alerting you so you can take the necessary steps on yours.

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