Employee Spotlight is a Q&A series that features the talented, dedicated, and sometimes quirky employees at Invoca so you can get to know the team that makes Invoca great.
We’re excited to share a little bit about the amazing employees at Invoca. For the first edition of this series, we are thrilled to introduce James Brown.
No, not this one.
Q: What is your role at Invoca?
A: I am the Cloud Operations Manager. For the last two years, I managed the operations team and oversaw the production environment as part of the larger engineering team. (For those of us who don’t speak engineer, allow me to translate: James is an important part of our engineering team. He makes sure the servers and platform environment are functioning and secure so the engineering team can continue to build and improve Invoca’s call intelligence platform).
Q: How did you end up working on call fraud?
A: It really started out as a passion project for me. Fraud is an industry-wide problem and at Invoca, we see the negative effects first hand. I started talking to the engineering team about my ideas to combat call fraud, and with a couple interested engineers, I created a Honeypot team and meet-up to help us identify and classify fraudulent callers. I was aware of call fraud prior to joining Invoca since it is an issue that affects all business in all industries, but I hadn’t really grasped the scope or impact of it until we began investigating.
Q: What does call fraud look like?
A: There are several types of call fraud. They can involve local, toll-free, and/or international numbers. The main types of fraud are traffic pumping and robo calls. A regular person usually experiences call fraud at some point in their lives. It usually comes in the form of repeated sales calls or recorded messages, usually referring to something about the government (jury duty is a big one right now). For most people, it’s easy to brush aside because they usually receive a call once or twice a week at most.
For businesses, it is a much larger issue. These fraudsters create automated dialers that continually call a business from spoofed phone numbers. Each time a business is called, the fraudulent caller gets a piece of the call costs. And since they spoof the numbers, it can become extremely difficult to find the people behind the fraud. Each call can earn the individual a couple of cents, but when they’re making thousands of calls per day, that money can add up. And businesses are often on the hook for paying the high costs of these calls, which makes it a serious problem and one we care about a lot.
Q: How did the FBI get involved with the Invoca Honeypot team?
A: The Honeypot team worked for a year on this fraud endeavor, and we learned a lot on our own. Through our research we came across two organizations, the VTA-SIG and CFCA. These organizations have meet-ups over the phone to discuss fraud, share data, and tips. We were able to talk about what we’ve been experiencing, and connect with other individuals from other companies who are experiencing the same thing.
Through our connections at VTA-SIG and CFCA, we were introduced to FCC and FBI investigators who have been working on the same case of call fraud that our Invoca Honeypot team has been working on. We were able to present a portfolio of the fraud we were experiencing so the FBI had a greater lead on the perpetrators. It’s been pretty cool to be able to say that I worked with the FBI.
Q: Has call fraud decreased since the Honeypot team has been working with the FBI?
A: We were able to narrow down the specific type of fraud we were seeing to basically one guy. It’s incredible to think this whole issue can be perpetrated by a single person in their basement with an auto dialer. I mean, they don’t have to be in their basement, they could be in their living room, or wherever, but you get the idea. And now that we have a streamlined process for identifying and tracking fraud callers, the amount of call fraud has actually decreased for our customers. We will continue to monitor and improve our efforts to find and shut down call fraud.
Q: When you’re not working with the FBI and saving the world from call fraud, what are your favorite hobbies?
Honestly, my job is my passion. I love what I do. That may sound kind of strange or ingenuine, but it never really feels like work.
But when I’m not working, I am a total adrenaline junkie. Even though it stresses out my wife, I love skydiving, riding my motorcycles, and basically doing anything that walks the line between safety and danger. I also love playing with my dog, Rebel. He’s an awesome beagle.
Q: Didn’t you work with Google on a bug?
Yeah, a few years back I was working on a project that involved Google groups, and I realized I could use the email address of any Google user and send emails as that person. I reported the bug to the support team, but they didn’t believe me. So I asked the support rep I was on a call with for the first and last name of their supervisor. I was then able to send the support rep an email using their supervisor’s email address. That seemed to convince the guy because I was immediately put on hold. I am now listed on the Google security hall of fame for reporting that bug, and I got a pretty awesome bounty.
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara?
A: Zen Yai is by far my favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara. I love Thai food in general, but Zen Yai is especially delicious. I’m pretty sure I could eat it every day.
Q: Do you hate being named James Brown?
A: Actually, no. It’s a family name, my grandfather has it, my father has it. Surprisingly, I didn’t get made fun of very much in school. That may have been due to the fact that James Brown wasn’t very popular among the youth in Minnesota. My nickname actually used to be Lucky because I would win raffles and contests pretty often.
Are you interested in joining our amazing team? Visit www.invoca.com/company/careers/ to find your dream job.