Tom Harwood, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at Aeriandi discusses the issue of telephone fraud in contact centres and how businesses of all sizes can tackle it head on using voice biometrics.
It’s no secret that customer contact centres represent a major vulnerability in the data security chain. Their chaotic environment, high staff turnover and often lax security practices means that data loss, whether via criminal activity or simple carelessness, can become a significant issue if ignored. The good news is that in most cases, it isn’t. Advances in data protection means that our data is a lot safer from contact centre fraud today than it has been in the past. In fact, according to Financial Fraud Action, banks managed to stop £7 in every £10 of attempted fraud from happening last year. The online side of security in particular has come on leaps and bounds recently, with multi-factor authentication, behavioural monitoring and identity based management all helping to greatly improve data security. However, at present the same cannot be said for phone-based contact, which still significantly lags behind its online counterpart.
When most of us call a contact centre, after correctly answering a few simple identity-based questions such as full name, address and date of birth, we are considered validated and given free reign within our account. Unfortunately, it goes without saying that criminal gangs and professional fraudsters have long since realised this, which is why phone fraud is becoming a growing issue for businesses. For the perpetrators, it is easy to carry out, low cost and low risk. The rise of VoIP networks makes long distance calls cheap to conduct from anywhere in the world, while what little technology-based security is sometimes in place, such as caller ID and Automatic Number Identification (ANI) can be easily fooled using simple spoofing technology. There are even readily available apps such as Caller ID Faker (that has over 1,000,000 downloads to date), which can be used to do this.
It is estimated that between 30-50% of all fraud incidents are initiated with a phone call, meaning telephone agents in contact centres are a prime target. For a fraudster, talking to an agent presents a number of advantages. Firstly, most fraudsters are extremely adept at social engineering, meaning they are experts at manipulating people. Secondly, agents first and foremost prioritise customer service and being helpful; they want their customers to get passwords right and successfully complete transactions. Thirdly, the average contact centre agent will only be dealing with a fraudster once in approximately every 2000 calls, meaning that identifying and handling them is not a core competency for most of them.
The only defence that most contact centres have against these fraudsters is asking the afore mentioned personal questions to verify their identity. If a fraudster can provide the correct information, their movement is practically unrestricted. They can either attempt a direct attack there and then, or opt to take more innocuous steps in order to set up a future attack, such as changing an address or phone number to an asset they “own”.
What’s clear is that current telephone security measures are inadequate for the threats that they face. For this reason, a growing number of businesses are starting to look at more comprehensive solutions such as voice biometrics technology to provide the first line of defence for their contact centre agents.
This is because over 95% of fraudulent attempts are in fact repeat attacks by the same small number of professional fraudsters. This has allowed authorities to build up a global blacklist of over 1,000 known fraudsters and their voice signatures over time. With an effective voice biometrics solution in place, every time a contact agent takes a call, the voice of the caller is compared against this blacklist, allowing known fraudsters to be quickly detected and stopped. In these instances, it doesn’t matter how skilled a fraudster is at social engineering, they will be quickly identified and quarantined from any sensitive information they are trying to get access to. An additional benefit is that the entire biometric process is completely transparent, meaning callers will not even know biometric verification is taking place unless an issue is raised with caller authenticity.
Voice biometric systems are not just for weeding out fraudsters either, they can also help to improve the customer journey and reduce overall call handling times. Businesses who put a comprehensive voice biometric system in place can quickly build up their own database of genuine customer voice signatures. This means that whenever a customer calls in, they can be instantly identified without the need for the agent to ask rudimentary identity questions each and every time, saving precious seconds.
While improvements to Internet based security have been coming thick and fast in recent years, many businesses’ phone security measures are lacking dangerously behind. Nowhere is this felt more keenly than telephone agents in contact centres, which remain one of the prime targets for professional fraudsters. However, the introduction of an effective voice biometrics system for identification and verification can quickly stop fraudsters in their tracks, while simultaneously improving the customer journey. The result is a win-win improvement for a customer channel that’s overdue a security upgrade.