UK number one for telecoms traffic fraud, says BICS

15 July 2019 | Natalie Bannerman

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According to figures from BICS FraudGuard platform, criminals are exploiting weaknesses in the UK's phone numbering system to generate huge profits, making the region the number one target for fraudulent telecoms traffic.

In the last 12 months, BICS says that it has identified and blocked more than 170 million fraudulent call attempts to hundreds of global destinations. Of this the UK suffers the most as 15% of the total global fraud calls – approximately 25 million – were aimed at the country.

“The results from our FraudGuard platform illustrate what a persistent – and damaging – threat telecoms fraud is to the industry, whilst continuing to prop up serious organised crime,” said Katia Gonzalez, head of fraud prevention, BICS. “Eradicating telecoms fraud is an ongoing battle, and one which will only be successfully waged with industry-wide collaboration. Sharing information and knowledge will allow the sector to take a proactive approach to minimising fraud, protecting subscribers in the UK, and globally.”

The reason for these targeted attacks are due to three weaknesses; regulation, management and ownership of phone numbers, which is not as tightly controlled as in some other countries. Telephone numbers with 070 are relatively easy to purchase and generally have higher termination rate than mobile numbers starting with 07. Many service providers are unable to distinguish this number’s premium rate from the standard rate of a regular mobile number – making it easy for fraudsters to exploit telecoms carriers by generating a profit from the expensive termination rates associated with these numbers.

“The UK is a long-suffering target of telecoms fraud, both in terms of its phone numbers being used to collect fraudulent traffic and its subscribers being targeted. Fortunately, tools are available to make its detection and prevention easier for mobile operators, allowing parties to work together against the fraudsters to protect bottom lines,” added Gonzalez.

Telecoms fraud causes an annual loss of an estimated $30 billion according to the Communications Fraud Control Association (CFCA). Additionally, recent data from BICS showed a 2% increase in fraudulent call attempts globally in 2018, compared to the year before. While global spam calls had grown 325% to reach 85 billion globally.