GSM operators collaborate to combat fraudulent phone calls

As part of measures to curb rising cases of fraudulent phone calls across the globe, the Global System for Mobile telecommunications Association (GSMA) is expanding its fraud prevention service portfolio across the industry.

This move is expected to enhance the telecoms industry’s capacity to combat robocalling and other unwanted or fraudulent calls.

Together with technology partner Mobileum, GSMA has developed a new international fraud deterrent system, unveiled on Tuesday at MWC21 as a proof-of-concept model. GSMA now invites the global telecoms industry to trial the model.

The invitation is open for a range of global telecoms stakeholders to participate, including mobile and fixed carriers, voice over IP operators, voice and signalling wholesalers around the world. The aim of the trial is to evaluate advanced collaborative fraud and nuisance call prevention techniques.

The GSMA is an industry organisation that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide. More than 750 mobile operators are full GSMA members and a further 400 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem are associate members.

GSMA Chief Technical Officer, Alex Sinclair, said the US Federal Communications Commission recently said fraudulent robocall schemes costs American about $10 billion yearly, with most perpetrators operating overseas.

Sinclair said it’s a challenge faced by citizens globally, which is “why we’re calling on telecoms operators – mobile, fixed-line, Internet-based and wholesalers – to share their insights and experience so we can together locate and mitigate these sources of fraudulent activity.”

The joint initiative will explore a series of tools using real fraud incidents, which will help limit a wide variety of fraud and nuisance calls. These include: Case handling – allowing multiple networks to work on a problem: Call path tracing – to find the source of a call when that source is disguised; Live threat monitoring and alerts – providing a real time view and warnings about active fraud campaigns; Network identifier address book – providing an authenticated list of network identifiers; and Call validation – to confirm the provenance of a call.x

Chief of Risk Management business at Mobileum, Rui Paiva, said, “By combining the industry’s collective intelligence and locally based information with our latest technology, we can deliver game-changing support to tackle fraud,” said “Our cloud-native platform provides the necessary tools to make a material difference, delivering the results and improvements everybody wants.”

Though, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had been able to stem the tide, Nigeria had in the last three and half years battle call masking, call refilling and SIM boxing, which are all targeted at fraudulent call services.

SIM Boxing or Interconnect Bypass Fraud has been one of the most prevalent frauds in the telecoms industry today. It happens when calls made via the Internet are sent to Simboxes (machines that house SIM cards), which redirect this illegal voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) traffic onto mobile networks.

Call masking on the other hand is when a call is masked or refilled when a number is deliberately classified to a different route and SIM boxing to describe one of the many tools in use) has many dimensions.

According to experts, SIM boxing fraud costs the industry to lose about $3 billion in revenue yearly. The Chief Executive Officer, NCC, Prof Garba Danbatta, had described call masking as a phenomenon, whereby an international call is masked to appear as a local call on any GSM network in Nigeria while SIM Boxing on the other hand refers to electronic boxes or devices with multiple SIMs that have the capacity to terminate calls at local interconnect rates.

He recalled that SIM Boxing started at the time the Commission decided to review international termination rates from N3.90 per minute to N24.40 per minute for international inbound traffic, which provided an opportunity for technology manipulators to terminate calls at N3.90 per minute and cart away the difference, thereby cutting the revenue meant for the operators and by implication the government. A SIM box, he explained, has the capacity to receive and transmit calls undetected.

“However, the challenge is that these SIM boxes are never type-approved by the Commission, an indication that they are being used illegally in the country,” he had said.

Determined to end the twin evil, the NCC had, vide a letter with Ref: TSNI/GEN/VOL.4/115, directed relevant licensees to ensure the cessation of call masking or refiling activity on their networks. A deadline was set. Furthermore, on August 3, 2017, at a stakeholders meeting organised by the Commission in which the affected companies participated, it was resolved that a comprehensive investigation would be carried out by the NCC to determine the companies/licenses involved in the illegal act.

Licensees were warned to desist from the practice. It was also agreed that identified culprits would be sanctioned as part of measures to forestall the negative impact of this incidence on national security.

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