Fraud Protection – Dial Plan Algebra

AurorA has operated in the International Telecommunications market since 1994. Since that time the telecom landscape has evolved and transformed and the pace of change has accelerated. The liberalization and deregulation of telecoms since the 1990’s, the move to native Internet Protocol (VoIP) and the deployment of fiber optic networks spanning the globe have driven voice termination prices steadily downwards. Per Telegeography, the annual CAGR for International Telephony between 1983 and 2007 was 15%; if we now include Skype and other OTT apps international voice traffic is still growing over 15% per year. People still want to talk with friends, family and business associates overseas.

International Telecommunications has become a high volume, low margin industry. That is why we believe that you should trust your traffic to a partner who provides value beyond simply completing calls at “the lowest rate” via Least Cost Routing (LCR). That approach can actually cost you big time ! You want a partner who provides high quality service and is motivated in protecting you and your customers from fraud, because even a single money-losing event is one too many and can wipe away any per-minute savings in an hour.

There are numerous sophisticated telecom fraud schemes in the world. Some have been around for decades, others are new and improved. The estimated global telecom toll fraud is US$38 billion in losses per year. The CFCA, Communications Fraud Control Association, cites telecom fraud as the #1 fraud committed outpacing identity theft, IRS fraud and credit card theft.

What can we do to mitigate and minimize the losses to the criminal gangs and hackers ?
– Identify suspicious traffic
– Provide alerts
– Block the suspicious traffic (while ensuring customer doesn’t reroute call to next route on LCR)
– Maintain a database and continue to block previous identified fraudulent destinations
– Ensure a meticulous, accurate worldwide dial plan

Dial Plan ? How does my A to Z route guide help mitigate fraud exposure? Well let me go through the list and explain.

The global network carries hundreds of billions of voice minutes on an annual basis by wholesale carriers such as Tata, Orange, T-Systems etc. Using Big Data and AI, these carriers can detect suspicious call patterns and trends. Even with the size and complexity involved, this takes place in near real-time. Once detected, an alert is promptly sent to the affected customer.

At AurorA we go a step beyond that by pro-actively blocking the suspicious traffic stream immediately upon the alert (for all of our customers). Blocking, however, is only part of the solution. To keep your route guide from automatically going to the next choice, the proper non-routable ISUP/SIP release code is sent to indicate fraud blocked numbers so that it doesn’t just propagate through the route guide.

By maintaining a database of fraud events, we can also pro-actively block specific numbers/ranges where fraud has been detected before. Traffic is then monitored for any call attempts made to known fraudulent numbers as well as to any unallocated number ranges.

Calls to unallocated numbers may be fraud as well. A reseller may make a deal with the number range owner, usually in a low volume, high cost destination for exclusive rights to certain of these number ranges. Often they are called premium or “special” (see my post http://www.amitel.com/premium/ ) A regular report of call attempts made to blocked numbers can be a warning sign of criminals testing your network, to see if calls complete to their chosen fraudulent numbers.

The key is to ensure that your dial plan is constantly up-to-date with current worldwide numbering (updated weekly) and that you avoid using carriers that have a plethora of such premium or special number ranges on their dial plans. Further safety can come by pro-actively blocking high-rate destinations where you know that your end customer base has no call volume to.

Choose to use a quality, reputable carrier who you trust with your overseas calls.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us.

Also, thanks to Robert Benlolo of Tata whose expertise in this field provided me with guidance.

Premium Numbers and Fraud

AurorA has been in the International Telecommunications space since 1994. Route guides for terminating traffic used to be simple; there was a rate per country to terminate a call to a landline telephone and maybe, maybe a second rate to terminate a call to the new cellphones. There were less than 300 lines on the spreadsheet.

Now, there are carriers whose A-to-Z rate sheet can offer thousands of pricing codes; still the landline rate with perhaps some other routes to major cities and a breakout now for each mobile carrier in the country but there are also an increased amount of expensive premium rates that are a potential risk for fraud.

In Canada and the U.S. in the 1990’s there was an explosion in the use of 900 or 976 numbers to offer premium services at a high per minute call rate that would be charged to the caller on their phone bill. Examples included weather reports, psychic hot lines and especially adult (phone sex) chat lines. The high per minute rates could lead to large phone bills very quickly and scammers would use all kinds of tactics to get people to call these numbers as they would get a split of the revenue from the phone company for each call. Consumers and businesses smartened up and blocked 900/976 number and eventually the Internet came and killed that particular market.

Overseas countries still have premium numbers and they live on through various names; Special Services, Non-Geographic Numbers, Universal Numbers, Telematic Services. etc. These numbers are premium in that usually they are at least ten times the rate of normal termination. They can have some legitimate applications; for example non-geographic numbers refers to a remote number, not tied to a physical destination such as if I wanted a Cyprus number to ring to my cellphone when I was elsewhere so my Cyprus customers could reach me.

They can be used for darker purposes though, through a scam called International Revenue Sharing Fraud (IRSF). In IRSF, the carrier in the far end country that owns the number ranges, leverage blocks of numbers they own by applying higher rates and assigning them to resellers outside of the country. Then hackers obtain these numbers, attack PBX’s and IP PBX’s and then machine generate calls. They then share the burst of revenue generated with the carrier in the country that owned these numbers providing a quick source of cash.

So how can you protect yourself ? It comes down to your own dial plan. You want to make sure that you don’t allow access to any premium numbers with such creative names like those listed above. Secondly , when choosing what international carrier to use to terminate your traffic with, beware of those whose own dial plans are riddled with such premium ranges, even if they seem to have low rates otherwise. It may be an arbitrage ambush. If they have many more premium pricing breakouts that do not exist on other carriers rate sheets you should avoid them. It doesn’t take many calls to the premium numbers to swamp any anticipated savings from using their “low” per-minute rates.

Choose to use a quality, reputable carrier for who you trust with your overseas calls.
Don’t be like those people in the photo when your bill comes in.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us.

Also, thanks to Robert Benlolo of Tata whose expertise in this field provided me with guidance.

Remain Vigilant over the Holidays

It is an unfortunate fact that the fraudsters of the world like to plan their attacks on holidays when network supervision may not be at its highest.

Please remember to be vigilant this Holiday season and guard access to your switches.

AurorA has to deliver any traffic that is sent to it , so you are responsible for any unauthorized access to your network. AurorA will pass on any alerts that it gets of suspicious traffic patterns. AurorA has also implemented automatic blocking of B numbers once we detect a suspicious fraudulent traffic pattern in an attempt to minimize losses. In the New Year I will highlight on this blog other steps that we have taken such as the weekly reports of suspicous call attempts, revamped dial plan and intensified focus on high quality terminating routes.

Have a safe and happy Holiday season, and to those celebrating, Merry Christmas !

Timo Vainionpaa

Pakistan shuts down illegal routes

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Often here in Canada, when searching for options to call overseas we can be tempted by cheap calling rates that appear too good to be true. At Amitel, we use premium international termination services, high quality terminating with calling line ID at the far end.

The attached link, from the Express Tribune, is to a recent story on how the Pakistan authorities have shut down 26 illegal gateway exchanges that were bypassing the system. Some of our “cheap price” competitors will now find they cant reach Pakistan.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/675710/cyber-crime-fia-bust-26-illegal-gateway-exchanges-six-arrested/

809 Area code scam

Time to remind Amitel customers about a classic scam to be aware of.
Beware of voicemail messages or texts from numbers that you do not know, especially from area codes like 809, 284, 649 or 876.

They get you to call by telling you that it is information about a family member who has been ill or to tell you someone has been arrested, died, or to let you know you have won a wonderful prize, etc.. You assume the number is in Canada or the U.S. because of the typical three digit area code; however you are actually connected to a phone number in the Caribbean (i.e. 809 is the Dominican Republic). When you return the call you’ll also get a long recorded message. The point is, they will try to keep you on the phone as long as possible to increase the charges.

Amitel recommends the following tips to help avoid the scam:

* Return calls to familiar numbers only

* Check unknown area codes or country codes. Amitel will be adding a searchable list of area codes and country codes to our website soon to assist you at www.amitel.com

* Always carefully read your phone bill

For further information and for a history of this scam you can check out Snopes at
http://www.snopes.com/fraud/telephone/809.asp