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Phone Fraud Still a Problem For US Businesses
Whatever happened to the telecom scam? Does it still exist? Should you as a business owner be concerned? Despite major advances in security technology and increased telecommunications security protection and customer awareness, telephone fraud continues to be a major concern for all businesses. Just the thought of potentially thousands of dollars in lost business due to phone fraud is scary. The fact is that phone fraud still has the potential to drive business out of your business, and that’s a scary proposition. Even with the advent of VOIP technology, thieves have continued to figure out how to hack even the most complicated systems, and companies like yours and mine can still suffer as a result.
There are three main types of phone scams that most of us have to worry about and will be covered in this article. Annoying Scam (choke and crash), Proprietary Phone System Scam (PBX and Key System), Voicemail Scam and the newest challenge, VOIP Phone System Scam.
Annoying scam: Most of us as business professionals will at one point or another encounter annoying scams, otherwise known as crashes and crashes. Annoying fraud usually can’t make or break a business when it hits, but it can reduce revenue if left unchecked on the phone bill.
Blocking occurs when a third-party provider charges for services or fees that the customer did not authorize. These fees are neither ordered nor desired by your company. These fees may include products and services such as bogus voicemail service charges, carrier-assisted calls, calling card programs, monthly service fees, and credit control services. Also, fake yellow pages and white pages ads can also mysteriously appear on your business phone bills or be billed directly to you.
Cramming is the addition of charges to a subscriber’s telephone bill for services neither ordered nor desired by the customer, or for charges for calls or services not properly disclosed to the customer. These charges are often assessed by unscrupulous third-party suppliers of data and communications services, which telephone companies are required by law to allow the third party to bill.
Have you ever looked at your local phone bill and seen strange charges from “other service providers you don’t know?” If you have, chances are pretty good that you’re stuck. For large businesses, fees are buried deep in invoices and are hard to spot, and can go on for years, month after month without being noticed.
How can you get refunds and fight hoarding? First, call your local phone provider and ask them to refund the charges to the offending party. In most cases, they will. If they don’t cooperate, contact the FCC, your best state attorney, and the FTC to file a complaint. However, first let the claimant know that you want to give them the chance to get your money back.
Collision can occur when there is an unauthorized switch or change of an operator providing local, local or remote service. The bump is frustrating because rogue phone companies are able to easily change or “paint” your long distance service to their own plans, often at a much higher rate than your preferred or carrier of choice. Even after you discover the fraud, there is still the headache of switching all your lines to the long distance provider you must have and getting the fraudulent service to give you a refund. How do you prevent it? Ask your carrier to put a “picture freeze” on your phone lines. Insist on a corporate password for access to all your local, mobile, and long-distance phone accounts, and limit all access to those accounts to two key people in your company.
Phone system and voicemail scam: These types of scams continue to be problematic for many companies and will continue to be as long as companies have PBX and Key type phone systems and long distance calls cost money and hackers can easily gain access. Proactively preventing this type of fraud is much easier than correcting it after it happens and let’s face it, like most criminals, hackers are lazy and will leave your company alone and go elsewhere if the system your has the necessary protective measures. First, make sure your phone system manufacturer provided default master passwords for your phone and voicemail systems have been changed in your location. Hackers know these passwords and can easily hack your system if they can gain access. In fact, many of these major phone system passwords (ie: Avaya, Siemens, Nortel, Mitel, Cisco) are posted online, available to anyone. Changing your password can be done by calling the company that maintains your phone systems services.
Also, make sure your remote access to your phone systems is secure. This can often be done using security encryption technology for remote access to your system. Next, make sure your employees aren’t using simple passwords like “1111” to access their voicemail boxes. These can be easily hacked. Also, set your voicemail system to auto-prompt and make sure employees change their passwords at least every 90 days. When employees leave the company, be sure to delete their unused voicemail boxes as soon as possible. Why? The hacker takes control of the voicemail box and records the word “yes”. He then sets up a third party and instructs the outside operator to call your departed employee’s old PO Box number. The operator says, do you accept third party charges for calling Mr. Jones, and the voicemail answers “yes” as programmed.
Another big threat to companies today is the problem of weak connections in personnel, especially the company’s receptionist. This is sometimes referred to as “social engineering trickery”. Your employees and receptionist should be alert for a call being received where an individual may identify themselves as someone who works for the phone company that is testing the lines. They might say, “I’m with the phone company and I’m running a test on your phone systems, please transfer me to a separate extension.” Transferring a caller to certain digits first enters an outside phone line by “dialing 9” and “dialing 0” accesses the outside operator who can facilitate a call anywhere in the world to the scammers. Calls are then billed to your company. Hackers have also been known to use other tricks such as finding board members of large companies and then impersonating that individual on a phone call to that company. The host may not be able to recognize their voice because board members usually do not interact with receptionists as much as employees. However, due to the prestige, power or reputation of a board member in the company, the receptionists are aware of their power, so the caller is able to have unlimited transfer capabilities to carry out their crimes. The crime is usually only discovered after the phone bill arrives. Warn the receptionist and staff about this trick. Numerous companies were milked for thousands of dollars in overseas calls because of this crime.
If your business has a toll-free access number, be on the lookout! Hackers can call the toll-free number and use codes and features to make overseas calls or dial service charges for paid calling services.
Another thing you should do is to limit certain call forwarding and conferencing features on your company’s phone system that could help hackers in forwarding calls to your currency. Arrange to meet with your phone system vendor to perform a vulnerability analysis to ensure your phone system is secure. Most of the major telephone equipment vendors, Siemens, Avaya, Nortel, and Mitel have security bulletins and security support programs to help you keep your systems secure and up-to-date.
VOIP Fraud: The third and final telecom voice fraud concern to be discussed is the latest threat to companies and that is VOIP fraud. Voice over IP fraud is still in its infancy, but is becoming more widespread. Again, as previously mentioned in the previous section about phone system fraud, one of the best ways to prevent this type of fraud is to change the system passwords on your VOIP phone system.
Attention is starting to grow around recent attacks on VOIP systems, but actual cases of documented fraud are just now starting to become a problem. In 2007, two men were arrested for routing calls through unsecured network ports at other companies to route calls to providers. Over the course of three weeks, the two sent half a million calls to a VOIP provider. Federal investigators believe the two made up to $1 million from the scam. However, actual cases of VOIP fraud on these systems are still somewhat rare, however, there is a lot of potential for harm as vulnerabilities and security holes are becoming more widespread and more easily exploited by savvy hackers.
VOIP hackers can exploit system passwords to gain access to VOIP company voice systems and can and do steal millions of minutes of remote service. How? Hackers read VOIP vendors’ security bulletins and collect public information on the companies’ IP addresses that are posted online, which allows them to hack into customers’ systems. They create and use custom software code to decrypt access codes and access exposed data ports and data ports and computer systems. Hackers can find it easy to use default or poorly chosen passwords.
To counter these attacks on your company and stay up to date with the latest security technology and VOIP fraud prevention tips, consult your VOIP equipment vendors and ask specific questions about how to best protect your systems . If you have a large VOIP system, it may make sense to have a professional perform a security audit of your system. Business IP customers and IT managers should use the latest encryption techniques for their network access and train and monitor their employees to effectively protect their company data and system information. IP.
The best way to determine if telecom fraud is being perpetrated in an organization is to do an extensive telecommunications audit and complete review of the phone system.
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