29th April 2024

Beating the fraudsters: how to secure your contact centre 

By Jamie Melling

If an organisation is serious about combatting fraud and ensuring customer trust, then deploying technology to secure the contact centre is essential, writes Jamie Melling, Smartnumbers CEO.

This is an excerpt from our Contact Centre Security Report 2023: the hidden fraud lurking in the shadows. You can find out more and download the full report here.

Our research identified that 1 in 500 calls to the contact centre were suspicious. The good news is that there are tools and practices that can be deployed today to identify and tackle them head-on. 

We found that suspicious calls fall into four groups, each of which can be addressed in distinct ways.

Frequent flyers:

The fraudsters that keep coming back and do not attempt to hide who they are. Our research and ongoing work with contact centres has highlighted that not all fraudsters are highly sophisticated criminal masterminds. This group can easily be recognised, making it relatively simple to automatically flag and block the numbers they use. 

Our research shows that ‘frequent flyers’ equate to 1 in 4 of suspicious calls to the contact centre. 

(Suspiciously) hidden numbers:

The next logical step is for fraudsters to withhold their number when calling the contact centre. Our research identified that more than 58% of suspicious calls come from withheld numbers and represent a high risk to the organisation. 

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as denying these calls – plenty of genuine customers also withhold their numbers when calling. But with this knowledge, contact centres must treat withheld number calls with increased scrutiny. 

Withheld number calls equate to another 1 in 4 suspicious calls to the contact centre. 

How you can address this risk

The challenge is that the originating number is protected data and, to protect the privacy of genuine customers, telcos can’t provide access. But you can work with your telecommunications provider to establish a process to block or alert you to calls originating from withheld numbers you have previously associated with fraud. 

Suspicious numbers flagged by other call centres: 

Fraudsters will target multiple organisations simultaneously as they gather information for a fraud attack and maximise their returns once they are ready. For fraudsters, this is their full-time job – they make multiple calls from multiple phones throughout the day to multiple contact centres and multiple types of company in their quest for a weak link or opportunity. 

For example, to tackle a bank’s 2FA, a fraudster might convince a mobile operator to fraudulently change a victim’s SIM card so they get sent the code by the bank. Or within the same sector, a fraudster might focus effort on one bank until they get caught, regroup and try another bank a few days later. 

Contact centres therefore must work together across industries to strengthen the chain and ensure there is no weak link.

Our research identified that nearly 1 in 5 suspicious calls was from a fraudster identified by another contact centre, but which had not been identified by the organisation they were calling. 

How you can address this risk: 

Collaboration is essential. Work with peers, industry bodies and law enforcement to share phone numbers used by fraudsters and other intelligence about how criminals are operating. 

Smartnumbers’ consortium of customers and partners provides the community to do this.

Consortium members share data, analysis and insights that can assist all parties in exposing frauds and known fraudsters. By working together and pooling knowledge, everyone can combat fraud. 

Previously unidentified suspicious numbers :

No matter how well set up you are to tackle fraud today, it’s important to remember tactics shift.  Fraudsters move quickly, trying different techniques, and probing for weaknesses in your defences, so you need to be able to identify changing behaviour and adapt quickly. 

Our research highlighted that 1 in 3 of all suspicious calls were identified as a result of subtle behavioural cues, such as their frequency of calling.  Learning and adapting to fraudulent (and suspicious) caller activity spotted in the contact centre, requires monitoring caller behaviour patterns as well as the numbers they used

Leveraging AI/ML to boost security 

AI and machine learning tools can to spot and flag suspicious behaviour and activity – and it can help you authenticate genuine customers too. Smart tools and technology are turning the tide in the fight against fraud. 

Work together to fight fraud 

As cybersecurity becomes more robust and public awareness of scams grows, we will see growing exploitation of the telephony channel from fraudsters. 

Our research has made it clear that there is a hidden but easily identifiable world of fraudster activity in the contact centre. With immediately actionable and easily deployable practices, much of this activity can be eradicated. But, awareness of the problem must be established first. 

We hope this research inspires you to review your approach to contact centre fraud. By deploying intelligent tools and technologies, we can make a serious difference to our customers’ security. Tackling fraud together is the fastest way to take significant steps to detect their activity, prevent access, and protect customer accounts and information. 
If you’d like to learn more, please contact us. You can also download the full report.