30th January 2024

Highlights from UK Finance’s Inaugural Fraud Technical Briefing: Mitigating Rising Contact Centre Risk

By Grant White

Here are the highlights from a panel session “Mitigating Rising Contact Centre Risk” hosted by UK Finance at their inaugural Fraud Technical Briefing. The panel was hosted by Tony O’Sullivan (Principal, Payment Scheme Fraud Prevention Lead, UK Finance) and other fraud prevention experts: Tim Burton (Chief Customer Officer, Smartnumbers), Dan Standish (Head of Future Fraud Strategy, Santander) and Matt Smallman (author of Unlock Your Call Centre) covering the current and future challenges facing contact centres. 

The current landscape

Starting with a backdrop of increased focus on cybersecurity, Tony drew attention to the security challenges within contact centres – a major but often overlooked front where the battle against fraud gets waged. Particular emphasis was placed on how contact centres can spot suspicious calls from unknown or unflagged numbers; and the benefits of joining data-sharing consortiums. He also noted that the impact of fraud on both organisations and consumers highlights the urgency to find viable solutions to this growing issue.

A shift in fraud

Tim Burton noted a significant shift over the past five years, with fraudsters increasingly targeting non-digital channels like contact centres to gather and validate data to be used for fraud in other channels. We are seeing fraudsters, exploit telephony channels to extract information for future social engineering attempts in digital channels, for example.

Highlighting the need for an omnichannel solution and better-consolidated data against such threats, Tim asserted the requirement for a better understanding and robust response to fraudulent activity in contact centres.

Practical Mitigations

Speaking from his extensive experience managing fraud prevention strategies, Dan Standish pointed out the multifaceted nature of the problem facing contact centres. It isn’t just about distinguishing between a customer and a fraudster anymore, but also assessing whether an authentic customer might be under the spell of a fraudster. 

Matt also brought to light another challenge contact centres face – the heightened difficulty of identifying potential fraud attempts when, statistically, less than one in 500 interactions with call centres has anything suspicious about it. In such scenarios, providing agents with light-touch tools and a holistic view of the customer’s context can greatly enhance fraud detection, avoiding the need for a heavy-handed fraud prevention approach for all.

Intelligence sharing

The significant value of intelligence sharing for fraud prevention was also a crucial part of the discussion. This covered both internal sharing between teams and external sharing across organisations – through the Smartnumbers consortium and other communities, for example.

Tim Burton elaborated on this, emphasising the importance of engaging all parts of the financial crime ecosystem, moving from static data points to a more dynamic and conversational approach and unlocking the ability to leverage timely data across diversified consortiums.

Preparing for the future

Looking ahead, the speakers agreed that while deepfakes and AI do pose potential risks for fraud in the contact centre channel, their impact is currently limited. The immediate focus should be on enhancing current measures – ensuring secure systems, improving customer awareness, firmer policy implementations, more efficient technology solutions and more data-sharing 

The consensus was clear: as the technological landscape and fraudster tactics evolve, so must the fraud prevention strategies implemented by contact centres. Operations need to remain dynamic and adaptive, developing increasingly sophisticated defences on parallel tracks with developing threats. 

By exploring these challenges and prospective solutions, the discussion shed light on multiple aspects of contact centre operations, demonstrating ways to ensure not just efficient fraud prevention, but also maintaining a high standard of customer service.