We hear a lot about cybercrime and less about voice fraud. But, as Dr. Nikolai Gaubich explains to James Goulding, this still remains a serious problem, and businesses need to do more to address it.

Voice fraud may not be of much importance to cybercrime, but according to Dr. Nikolai Gaubich, director of research at Pindrop, it is a very real problem that criminals use to support their online activities.

“In the 10 years since Pindrop was founded by CEO Dr. Vijay Balasubramanian, we have analyzed more than 2 billion phone calls and detected about 1 million fraudulent calls, so somewhere between one in 700 and one in 1,000 received calls are fraudulent . In the retail sector, we have seen that the level of fraud reaches one in 100. “

According to a recent study by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Pindrop, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of fraudulent calls increased significantly: 59% of call centers in the EMEA reported an increase in attacks, and 61% complained about the impact on their bottom line.

Howitzer notes that despite high levels of fraud, some call center managers continue to underestimate the problem because the consequences are not always immediately apparent.

“There are fraudsters who specialize in very subtle data. They get a list of data, and all they do is call banks, vendors or insurance companies to confirm that the data is valid. Once the data is confirmed, they can sell it to someone else. It’s very hard to catch because companies don’t lose money.

“Customers of banking and retail companies can attach specific importance to losses. But, for example, not in utilities. They are a huge target for fraudsters who want to get names and addresses, especially in the UK, where utility bills are actually a form of ID. As there is no real loss of money, it is very difficult to persuade them to take action. “

So what are scammers using this data for?

“In the banking world, a typical example is when fraudsters get some data – your account number, your name, your address – and then call the bank, pretending to be you. There was one scammer, whom we called Postman Pat, who called the banks, claiming he had lost his debit card, and asked to send a replacement card to the home address that is in the file. Because this scammer had access to the addresses of bank customers, he managed to intercept mail, which is relatively easy to do, especially if the victim lives in an apartment building. This scammer had the details of many people’s accounts and did it in volume ”.

Fraudsters also use phone calls

Howitzer adds that fraudsters also use phone calls to facilitate their online activities, a classic example being requests for new passwords that are then dumped online to facilitate online fraud.

Three pillars

Pindrop offers a range of voice authentication and fraud prevention solutions to help banks, insurance companies, retailers and other customers automate true customer identification and prevent fraud. These include Pindrop Protect (for fraudulent calls), Pindrop Passport (for caller authentication) and VeriCall Technology (for automatic number identification and forgery detection).

As Gaubich explains, all Pindrop solutions are based on three technological pillars.

“Obviously, voice analysis and the ability to compare a known voice with who you are talking to can be used to identify known fraudsters and / or to authenticate known subscribers.

“The second pillar is Pindrop’s patented technology, called telephone printing, which analyzes everything related to a phone call, from background noise to audio artifacts that appear when compressed and transmitted over networks. We have about 1300 features that we measure outside of speech, which can tell you a lot about where the audio comes from.

“The third pillar is the behavior of subscribers. For example, if you see the phone number of a caller who calls many, many times, it may indicate that something is wrong.

“These three pillars or mechanisms create a risk assessment for each phone call going to the call center, from zero to 100, with a low score indicating low risk and a high one indicating high risk. It helps call center agents and fraud professionals to fight the security of phone calls in a whole new way. ”

The benefits of technology

Howbic notes that the artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies underlying Pindrop’s solutions provide more complete and faster authentication than traditional methods such as checking the number of incoming calls or asking knowledge-based authentication questions that are becoming more complex and difficult. to remember.

“Contact centers in call centers have developed strongly over the last 20 years. Technologies are actively used to optimize the work of call centers, to minimize the average processing time and so on, but only now the security aspect is being digitized and significantly transformed, ”he says.

“Technology is very important here because no one person can handle the 10,000 calls coming in every day and be able to tell you in a matter of seconds whether it’s a risky call or not, whether the caller is known. scammers or not. Technology is capable of doing this.

“It’s important to note that this is not a technology that will replace humans; it’s really a tool that helps human operators be more confident that they’re talking to the right person.

“In this context, we believe: first, the technology should be unobtrusive – it should happen without interrupting the conversation between the subscriber and the agent; and two that it should happen in real time with respect to the conversation. We usually give a risk assessment in less than 30 seconds and usually within 15 seconds so that operators can make the right decisions. ”

The way organizations respond to the risk assessments delivered by Pindrop varies from customer to customer, but mostly they allow organizations to increase call checks with high scores by passing them to a fraud group or asking an agent to ask the subscriber additional security questions.

In addition, they allow organizations to reduce screening for low-risk calls, resulting in more efficient call handling (with an average 45-second reduction in call processing time), higher self-service rates, and better customer service.

Recent General Economic Impact Study (TEI). commissioned by Forrester Consulting found that a medium-sized customer who uses Pindrop technology over a three-year period can expect 10% operating profit and a 15% reduction in fraud and loss, resulting in a return on investment of 171% and annual savings of both almost $ 5 million.

To date, Pindrop has focused on incoming call centers, offering a choice of local and cloud solutions for subscriber authentication and / or fraud detection. This includes a new European cloud service to meet the needs of organizations, such as the financial sector, which for regulatory reasons require the deployment of cloud services in the region where they operate.

In the future, Howitzer expects the company’s technology to be more used in small and medium-sized call centers and in a much wider range of applications, including authentication voice assistants such as Alexa and other IoT devices with voice support.

“In the IoT market, with short statements and short commands, you need to be able to tell who you’re talking to in a much shorter amount of time – in just a few seconds – that has really taken technology to the next level,” he says.

For the company’s partners, including alliance partners, service providers and solutions, Pindrop’s expansion into new, largely untapped markets promises good results, especially at a time of considerable frustration with traditional processes (see box) and more focus on customer experience.


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