Are you tired of the random hang-up calls, bogus recorded calls about student loan offers, and “Betty” calling to help you verify your Google account? We are too, but they’re not just annoying to us and our customers. Robocalls and their evil twin toll-free traffic pumping cost call centers and other businesses millions of dollars per year in wasted telecom fees and sunk productivity. That’s why Invoca is involved in multiple initiatives including partnering with the FBI, FCC, government agencies and telecoms to stop call fraud.
What Call Fraud Means
Spam calls rose 108% in 2019, logging over 54 billion calls last year alone. These junk calls are casually referred to as “robocalls”, as they are usually automated. However, we see call fraud in two main buckets: robocalls and toll-free traffic pumping.
What are Robocalls?
Robocalls are automated phone calls that can actually be legitimate — like political campaign calls or appointment reminders — but more often, robocalls are placed with the intention to scam consumers or telecoms. You’ve probably noticed that most robocalls these days display fake phone numbers (aka spoofing) in or near your area code to trick you into picking up, only to hear that damn “Nancy from the student loan department” message for the millionth time.
Many robocalls are intended to directly defraud consumers. Imposter scams are the most common. They usually start with a recorded message posing as government agencies like the IRS, threatening callers with legal action in order to extract payments and/or banking information. Phishing scams are also very common and come in a variety of forms from innocuous-seeming refinancing offers to bogus lottery and prize schemes.
Robocalls that are placed to consumers and are silent, play background noise, or immediately hang up may be a callback scam, but more often they are juicing the telecom system for pennies at a time over millions of calls placed.
What is Toll-Free Traffic Pumping?
Toll-free traffic pumping (TFTP) is the type of call fraud that primarily impacts businesses and call centers. Fraudsters originate TFTP traffic to toll-free numbers with the intent of keeping the call in session as long as possible to receive cash rebates from telecom providers for passing off the traffic. These are often accompanied by recordings of silence, background noise, a woman saying “hello world” followed by silence, someone saying “hello?” on repeat to replicate an annoyed caller with a bad connection, and funny enough, a fake PSA about what robocalls are and how they have impacted the industry. That is hilariously ironic until you remember that these calls cost businesses millions and impact customers directly as these costs are passed on to them. Worse yet, they can make you spend more time on hold! That’s why we are continuing to fight call fraud in 2020 and beyond.
What Invoca is Doing to Battle Call Fraud in 2020
The tough part about stopping call fraud is figuring out where the calls are coming from. This is a mystery we are working to solve. In 2019, Invoca submitted over 50 fraudulent call tracebacks that included over 2,000 individual calls with the intention of identifying the originating party of the fraudulent activity. All of these traceback efforts have been logged and noted with the Invoca-led Toll-Free Traffic Pumping Traceback Group, major telecom carriers, the FBI, and other appropriate government agencies.
In 2020, Invoca intends to do even more. Based on recent results from Invoca and other industry leaders, we believe we are closing in on some of the core sources of fraudulent traffic. To bust into the den, we will boost our traceback efforts with more calls, continued leadership, and enhanced coordination between government agencies and carriers.
What the Telecom Industry is Doing to Stop Call Fraud
Along with Invoca’s personal commitment, the telecom industry as a whole is now moving in the right direction and enforcing new rules in regards to access and transport fees, along with implementing different forms of robocall and fraud mitigation systems.
This includes the implementation of SHAKEN/STIR, which is the most coordinated and widely agreed-upon industry effort to not only stop these fraudsters but identify them and permanently remove them from the telecom network.
SHAKEN/STIR is a new framework of interconnected telecom standards that combat spoofed robocalls with caller ID authentication. SHAKEN/STIR are acronyms for Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN) and the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) standards. This means that calls traveling through interconnected phone networks would have their caller ID “signed” as legitimate by originating carriers and validated by other carriers before reaching consumers. SHAKEN/STIR digitally validates the handoff of phone calls passing through the complex web of networks, allowing the phone company of the consumer receiving the call to verify that a call is in fact from the number displayed on Caller ID.
Invoca is also using its unique position and vast subject matter expertise to test SHAKEN/STIR with all of its telecom providers in 2020 to ensure all calls will be graded appropriately and accurately so that Invoca can continue to deliver world-class call data to enhance our customers’ marketing efforts.
There is more to come and we are excited to share all updates with you as we continue to improve our internal network as well as drive the telecom industry to deliver the calls you want, block the ones you don’t, and help hang up on call fraud once and for all.