Tackling the Nefarious Telecom Fraud: Wangiri

Sometimes, subscribers’ innate curiosity is to follow up on a missed call even when the number is not recognizable. But this as well can be the start of Wangiri Fraud. The word ”Wangiri” stands for the Japanese term “one ring and cut.” In this fraud, the fraudster places a short call to several customers to leave a missed call notification on the display of customers’ handsets, thus prompting them to call back. When the customer calls back, the call is either routed to an IVR or premium rate service (PRS) number only to realize that they have been charged heftily for the call.

Wangiri Fraud continues to be one of the most prevalent frauds globally. As per the CFCA 2021 fraud loss survey report, it is estimated that telcos are losing close to USD 2.23 billion globally to Wangiri.

Traditional telecom fraud management solutions face several challenges due to the evolving nature of the technology and fraud strategies used by the fraudsters.

Wangiri fraudsters have now started operating on a larger scale. Rather than targeting specific individuals, they use automated dialing machines to work through vast ranges of phone numbers, calling thousands every minute. Recent improvements in automated dialing platforms and the advent of Voice Over IP (VoIP) allow these fraudsters to call thousands of people simultaneously and do so at lower costs than ever before.

Telcos incur both direct and indirect losses from this fraud. As per the RAFM survey by the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), $0.43 billion was spent on compensating customers for Wangiri fraud. It also impacts the customers adversely, resulting in customer churn due to high customer dissatisfaction from bill shocks and bad customer experience. It also negatively impacts the operator brand image as subscribers complain about the high call rates charged to them without being aware of it.

Some of the major roadblocks in eliminating Wangiri are as follows:

  • There is no regulation defined on the carrier business, causing the fraudster to take advantage of the vulnerabilities of the carrier network.
  • The lack of visibility on the end carrier who is terminating the call.

However, the detrimental impact of direct and indirect losses to the operator can be minimized to a large extent by having an advanced and robust fraud management system with real-time action capabilities. This is the need of the hour because the traditional systems in place have been successful only to a minimal extent to curb this menace, due to the following reasons:

Lack of a proactive approach: Operators using the CDR (Call Detail Record) approach may detect Wangiri calls by performing high-level analysis of call detail records. This method may typically concern itself more with the Wangiri response than the initial Wangiri baiting. Also, in some cases, missed calls are not part of the CDRs that gets generated from the switch. They significantly increase the overall CDR volume, making it challenging for the operators to identify Wangiri fraud early in the network.

Lack of timely availability of threat intelligence on Wangiri numbers or origination points: Inability of tools or techniques for automated and near real-time data sharing among various operators can form a hindrance in the attempt for real-time blocking of number ranges and thus reducing fraud run-time.

Evolving fraud techniques: With the advent of new technologies, fraudsters continuously change the number and calling patterns making it difficult for traditional systems to capture them.

The Way Forward 

To reduce the impact of Wangiri fraud to a great extent, operators need to adopt a holistic approach towards telecom fraud prevention.It is of paramount importance for telcos to incorporate a solution to monitor traffic at the Signaling level and complement it with AI/ML technology. This will enable proactive detection of Wangiri number or number ranges. The AI-based fraud detection will detect hidden patterns in data for fraudulent activities, which reduces the time-to-detect fraud significantly. It is also essential that the fraud management system in place has the ability for automated data exchange in near real-time of known Wangiri numbers, which would help make quicker decisions. Furthermore, also as a precautionary measure, whenever a subscriber calls back to a high-risk destination upon receiving a missed call, it is recommended to have an IVR system that would inform the subscribers about their called destination. This IVR message would alert the subscribers and enable them to take the appropriate action. Lastly, it is essential that the telcos educate the subscribers of such episodes and the countermeasures, thus preventing them from falling prey to such frauds, thereby enabling a holistic approach towards telecom risk management.

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