We are living in an era of intense spam and scam calls. The evolution of the internet has supercharged this landscape, as voice-over IP (VOIP) capabilities allow fraudsters and bad actors to undertake these calls on a truly industrial scale.
VOIP technology introduced a revolution in communication technologies, moving communications en masse from traditional analog phone lines to a new, digital era of communication using fixed broadband connections.Analysis by Research and Markets projects that the market value of VOIP will grow from USD85.2bil in 2021 to USD102.5bil by 2026.
This high-growth arena is being supercharged by the further evolution of VOIP through voice-over long term evolution (VOLTE), which uses data connectivity from mobile devices, for example voice calls through your social media using your cellular data. VOLTE market size is projected to expand from USD3.7bil in 2020 to a remarkable USD133.57bil by 2026.
Customers and businesses are now able to use internet protocols to hold conversations across the world, complementing traditional avenues of communication and amplifying the era of mass communication to a new level. Yet as with many exciting new technologies, there are always those looking to exploit them for personal gain at the expense of others.
VOIP and VOLTE in the hands of fraudsters
Scam calls are nothing new of course, as far back as there have been telephone lines there have been unethical individuals trying to use them to defraud others. What VOIP and VOLTE offers is scale, as well as new opportunities to hide who and where the caller is.
VOIP and VOLTE tools offer scammers a chance to configure their call profile to replace their origin call number with a new number, which can be further enhanced by using digital tools to display a false name on caller ID received by recipients. This process, known as ‘spoofing’, means an elderly couple in Canada could find the phone ringing with the number showing as their trusted local bank branch, when in reality the call is being made from thousands of miles away by a fraudster in another country.
Fraudsters are now able to create automated systems that generate robocalls on a massive scale, using auto-dialing technologies, spoofing the number of origin so that recipients (or indeed communication systems) are tricked into believing that the call is from a legitimate source. A study published by industry association GSMA revealed Americans alone received almost 80 billion robocalls in 2021, although that marks a fall from over 105 billion received in 2019, perhaps hinting at the impact of new technologies in tackling this trend.
Adding to the challenge is the fact that traditional telecommunications architecture that many networks still rely on today was built in the age of copper wiring and analog calls, limiting the amount of data that can be transmitted down lines. That also limits the information about a call source, making it even harder to tackle scam calls.
Fraudsters are also using sophisticated techniques to amplify communication fraud through legitimate businesses, by hacking private bank exchange (PBX) systems then utilizing them to make scam calls. In 2009, hackers attacked the VoIP PBX of one Australian company, going on to make 11,000 calls that cost the provider a bill of more than USD120,000.
These costs are obviously not just limited to the businesses, with UK communication regulator Ofcom so concerned by the impact of VOIP scam calls on customers that in 2021 it ordered CSPs to introduce measures to automatically block any suspicious VOIP connections from abroad.
Creating a dynamic solution to tackle scam calls
Scam calls are undoubtedly a challenge for CSPs and their customers, and it is one compounded by the fact that some automated calls have genuine value to networks and individuals.
An automated call can be used by healthcare providers to inform patients about appointments or medication, by utility companies to advise of disruption to services, or by schools to update on attendance or school events. These are just simple examples that show how some robocalls can be legitimate, and why attempts to simply ban or cancel all such calls don’t offer a suitable solution to block scam calls.
When trying to stop robocalls and stop spam calls, it’s important to leverage data to understand the true risk profile of the caller, and understand how those risk profiles may evolve over time. A school with automated calls to inform parents of key information should not be treated in the same manner as an unknown international caller dialing thousands of numbers an hour in different target countries.
Neural Technologies’ SCAMBlock solution is designed to stop scam calls at the source, with a data-driven approach that protects customers from fraud. This sophisticated software utilizes a range of analytics techniques to assess the validity of a given call, including point of origin, destination of party being called, aggregation of data over time, and checks against high-threat lists. It leverages machine learning and artificial intelligence (ML/AI) techniques that ‘learn’ to adapt and identify changing risk profiles.
Calls with data profiles that indicate a high risk of being fraud are blocked before reaching customers, not only reducing the risk of fraud but also significantly reducing the disruption and distress caused to customers. Those calls which are deemed to be potentially suspect may be allowed through this barrier, but will be designated with a caller ID that clearly identifies and warns customers that it should not be treated as trusted, allowing customers to ignore the call if desired, or treat it with suspicion if answered. This provides a dynamic solution that not only reduces fraud calls, but warns customers of potentially suspicious calls.
CSPs are increasingly looking to protect customers from scam calls with smart spam blocker and scam blocker technologies. This is amplified by growing calls from regulators and customers alike. In an era of widespread VOIP and growing VOLTE use, that task is more challenging than ever, but thanks to dynamic and scalable solutions like SCAMBlock, we’re putting the power back in the hands of CSPs and customers to maintain a trusted communication landscape for all.