Criminals target UK for telecoms fraud

Criminals are exploiting weaknesses in the UK’s phone numbering system to generate huge profits, making the region the number one target for fraudulent telecoms traffic, data from international communications enabler BICS has today revealed. The findings, gathered from BICS’ FraudGuard platform, which crowdsources and anonymises intelligence from over 900 service providers, highlight the scale of the challenge facing operators throughout the world.

In the last year alone, BICS has identified and proactively blocked more than 170 million fraudulent call attempts to hundreds of destinations. The UK suffers most heavily, as 15% of the total global fraud calls – 25 million – were aimed at the country. According to recent findings from the Risk and Assurance Group (RAG), the UK is the only G20 country in the fraud termination top 10.

The UK’s telecoms fraud problem may be partly attributed to regulation, management and ownership of phone numbers, which is not as strictly controlled as in some other regions. It is relatively easy to purchase personal telephone numbers beginning ‘070’, which usually have higher termination rates than mobile numbers beginning ‘07’. Many service providers are unable to distinguish this number’s premium rate from the standard rate of a regular mobile number. This makes it easy for fraudsters to exploit telecoms carriers by generating a profit from the expensive termination rates associated with these numbers.

Telecoms fraud is a pervasive problem, causing an estimated annual loss of almost $30 billion, according to the most recent estimations by the Communications Fraud Control Association (CFCA). The threat of telecoms fraud is not only costly but growing: BICS’ data reveals a 2% increase in fraudulent call attempts globally in 2018, compared to the year previously. BICS’ findings follow an announcement earlier in the year, which revealed global spam calls had grown 325% to reach 85 billion worldwide, highlighting the dual challenge facing operators.

But despite these findings there is optimism, with knowledge-sharing amongst operators enabling the telecoms ecosystem to better protect itself against fraud; during 2018, BICS enabled operators to save over $320 million via its FraudGuard platform.

“The results from our FraudGuard platform illustrate what a persistent – and damaging – threat telecoms fraud is to the industry, whilst continuing to prop up serious organised crime,” said Katia Gonzalez, Head of Fraud Prevention, BICS. “Eradicating telecoms fraud is an ongoing battle, and one which will only be successfully waged with industry-wide collaboration. Sharing information and knowledge will allow the sector to take a proactive approach to minimising fraud, protecting subscribers in the UK, and globally.”

“The UK is a long-suffering target of telecoms fraud, both in terms of its phone numbers being used to collect fraudulent traffic and its subscribers being targeted. Fortunately, tools are available to make its detection and prevention easier for mobile operators, allowing parties to work together against the fraudsters to protect bottom lines,” added Gonzalez.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine