Spoofing, decoded: What it is, and how to stop it from sneaking into your contact center

All the modern conveniences you can’t live without—from smartphones to high-speed internet—can quickly turn into inconveniences (or worse) if you’re caught in the trap of cybercriminals. In fact, it’s projected that cybercrimes will cause global damage to the tune of $9.5 trillion in 2024

One of the many ways fraudsters prey on their victims, from individuals to global contact centers, is through spoofing attacks. So, how can you stay steps ahead of spoofers and exclude yourself from the organizations worldwide that experience an average of 1,258 cyberattacks per week

What is spoofing?

Spoofing is a malicious activity carried out by bad actors who trick you into thinking they’re a trustworthy party. By hiding their true identity and impersonating others, scammers engage in data theft, financial fraud, or unauthorized access to enterprise networks. There are two main types of spoofing: 

  1. Number spoofing: In the telecom industry, number spoofing was the top fraud method reported in 2021, accounting for $2.63 billion in losses due to caller ID spoofing (manipulation of incoming caller information). 
  2. IP spoofing: This includes manipulating IP addresses to gain unauthorized access to computers.

Put simply, the name and number on your caller ID display or the email that hit your inbox might seem legitimate, but it might be the inner workings of fraudsters pretending to be someone you know.

Spoofers don’t only target humans, however; they also zero in on contact center IVRs. This means that without effective spoof detection or caller authentication tools, spoofing activities can put a strain on contact centers.

Worst, the impact of telecommunications fraud, in general, often has a domino effect. 

To illustrate: A spoofing attack can cause a data breach, compromising usernames and passwords. This exposure of user information can lead to devastating financial losses for both your contact center and your customers. And when news of the leak spreads, it puts your company in a negative light. The reputational damage can erode the trust in your business and ultimately result in customer attrition.

Types of spoofing

Spoofing comes in many forms. Here are three types that could pose the most risk to your contact center.

1. Caller ID spoofing

You don’t pick up the phone if you don’t know who’s on the other line, an only 19% of Americans answer cell phone calls from unknown numbers.

This is why spoofers manipulate caller ID information to get you to take the incoming call and deceive you into playing a part in fraudulent activities.

Here are the most common forms of caller ID spoofing to watch out for:

  • Neighbor spoofing: Seeing a local number, or one very similar to your own? It doesn’t necessarily mean the call originated from your neck of the woods. Bad actors can fake the first six digits of their numbers to match yours.
  • Enterprise spoofing: This is when you receive a call from bad actors who impersonate a legitimate business or company telephone number.

Hackers can perform caller ID spoofing in various ways, and solutions like Bandwidth’s Call Verification help ensure that only ANI-validated calls are routed to your contact center agents.

2. Email spoofing

Don’t believe everything you see in your inbox. After all, emails can be spoofed and used in phishing scams, and phishing emails instigate 91% of all cyberattacks.

Cybercriminals send authentic-looking emails by forging the from name and address and reply-to address. Without scrutinizing the email header, recipients can unwittingly open malicious emails and expose themselves to the dangers of email spoofing.

These are some ways email spoofers can exploit your inbox:

  • Phishing scams: The spoofed email mimics the look of emails from organizations you’re familiar with. The goal is to convince you to install malware or log in to a spoofed website (and steal your data or money in the process).
  • Business email compromise scams: The spoofed email appears to come from your company’s c-suite or a vendor you do business with. The goal is usually to make you initiate a money transfer.

3. IP spoofing

IP spoofers don’t play small. They infiltrate your system using a misleading IP address and attack your entire network. 

They typically employ IP spoofing in various cyberattacks, including:

  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks: The network will be overloaded with malicious traffic until your servers slow down or crash.
  • Man in the Middle (MitM) attacks: The middleman eavesdrops on the interactions between two systems and alters the messages being relayed without them knowing.

Attackers who gain access to a contact center’s computer system can easily disrupt operations or swipe company data, resulting in financial or reputational damage. The cybercriminals could also demand ransom in exchange for halting the attacks or stopping the selling or releasing of the stolen information, with the global average ransom payout between Q1 2022 and Q2 2023 more than tripled from $212,000 to $740,000. 

2024 Enterprise Communications Landscape

See how 1,000 IT leaders like you are fighting spoof & fraud.

How does spoofing work?

A spoofing attack typically involves a combination of the spoof and social engineering. (What is social engineering? It’s a psychological technique scammers use to manipulate people into giving them or doing what they want, like inciting fear or curiosity.) 

Some of the most common spoofs are fake caller IDs and emails with falsified sender information. Once the spoofers successfully connect with their target victims, they add social engineering into the mix to prompt their marks to take an action that serves a deceptive agenda.

For example, bad actors with spoofed identities can trick contact center agents into handling a call or opening an email. Once they’ve exploited their vulnerabilities and kept them on the hook, the spoofer would ask your agents to disclose sensitive information, execute a funds transfer, or download malicious software, among other things.

Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated in their spoofing schemes, too. In 2024, they’re expected to continue using artificial intelligence (AI) in cybercrimes, including social engineering operations, to make their assets seem more authentic.

Three ways to detect and prevent spoofing

Your first line of defense against spoofing attacks is identifying the telltale signs of spoofing.

For instance:

  • Are there spelling alterations on the sender’s address? For example, bandwidth.com could be written as bandw1dth.com in a spoofed email.
  • Does the website you’re on have a legitimate security certificate? Check if a lock icon and hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) prefix are in the URL address bar.
  • Does the spoofer sound like they’re trying to trigger panic and create a sense of urgency around a requested action? Familiarizing your agents with social engineering cues goes a long way.

To strengthen your contact center’s defenses, Bandwidth’s authentication solutions can be especially helpful in thwarting an attack.

ANI validation

Identify the accuracy of your caller ID with Automatic Number Identification (ANI) Validation. Authenticating calls with tools such as Call Verification from Bandwidth ensures that the call you received matches the device associated with the number. When there’s an ANI mismatch, these suspicious calls can be flagged and routed to the IVR, so your agents don’t have to communicate with potential caller ID spoofers and would only promptly serve actual callers.

Fraud risk scoring

Assign a fraud risk score to callers and determine if they’re legitimate before they get connected to your agents. Bandwidth uses real-time risk assessment as a basis for these fraud scores. After calculating the scores, our Call Verification tool categorizes them as either low, medium, or high fraud risk. Then, your agents can proceed to make an educated decision on whether adding more authentication measures is necessary—or you can selectively route high-risk calls so they never reach an agent at all

Voice bioauthentication

Each person has a unique voiceprint, and voice authentication tools like Pindrop can use it to assess the risk associated with an inbound call and help mitigate fraud. By adding this type of authentication to your anti-spoofing stack, your agents get an extra layer of protection in their voice interactions, and your customers get better service as the quick authentication makes for a more efficient and productive call.

What’s next for spoofing & your CX?

Cybercrime losses are expected to keep increasing by $5.7 trillion until 2028. You must continuously educate yourself about ever-evolving spoofing tactics and be proactive in protecting your contact center using caller authentication solutions that would help stop even the savviest spoofers in their (cyber) tracks.