What you ought to know about VoIP Fraud

What You Ought to Know about VoIP Fraud

VoIP Communication is a common feature in corporate and personal life nowadays.  Most large concerns use it as a matter of course as part of their corporate integrated communications platform.

In the past, communications costs were inflated by unauthorised calls and other activities designed to get around telephone security policies. It’s no different today in VoIP Communications.  People still try to make unauthorised calls inside the organisation, and people try to hijack the company communications networks to make their calls.  Nothing really new, except that it’s now digital.

The first thing to do is to define VoIP fraud.

Simply put, VoIP Fraud is the unauthorised use of communication services resulting in a benefit to the fraudster and an unexpected cost to a third party.  The third party could be a service provider or the customer.

Many VoIP frauds are a continuation of a previous PSTN analogue fraud, but with a digital flavour. Some, because of the new technologies are entirely new.  Some use hacking techniques, but the bottom line is that someone is attempting to gain a financial advantage at someone else’s expense.

Fraud Types

Call Transfer Fraud

Call Transfer Fraud

In PSTN days it was possible to break into a telephone junction box, and then physically connect a handset to someone’s phone line.  The fraudster could then make international calls, charge an unsuspecting caller a fee, and have the bill ultimately paid by the real owner of the line.

The digital equivalent is where a hacker penetrates a VoIP PBX. In a similar way to that of PSTN days, the fraudster then offers callers discounted international calls. The calls go through the hacked PBX and are essentially free until they need to break out at the far end. The unsuspecting PBX owner is later presented with a bill by the foreign VoIP operator.

Usually, the hacker will get away with this since it will take some time for the fraud to come to light.  It is also difficult to pursue the matter across international boundaries.

Revenue Sharing Schemes

Revenue Sharing Schemes

Many service providers operate a scheme whereby companies can charge a premium call rate for using numbers to specialised services.  The income from these calls is usually shared between the two service providers.  The fraud is usually that the basic service provider gets no income from the premium rate service provider.

Call Forwarding

Call Forwarding

A variation on the revenue sharing  fraud is to forward a call supposedly to a local number to an international number.  This inflates revenue sharing income at the cost of the unsuspecting caller and service provider.

Value-Added Services

Value-Added Services

A fraud that depends on the digital world is that of unauthorised subscriptions to value‑added services. Often smart device users want to use different ringtones, listen to music and watch media clips which they download to their device.

Although strictly speaking, not a VoIP fraud, the caller who uses these services unwittingly signs up for a monthly subscription service charged to their VoIP number.  If the caller uses a corporate phone account, the costs, which can be substantial accrue to the company.

How to Limit VoIP Fraud

How to Limit VoIP Fraud

Remember, in a VoIP system, credentials are linked to an individual, not a handset.  In the past, you could borrow the managers phone to make an unauthorised long-distance call. No more.

Make sure that all users of your corporate VoIP system have valid credentials. Thereafter assign call limits to individuals and groups of individuals.   For example, if you have no need in your organisation to make international calls, block all international calls.

Other things:

  • Change the default credentials on your PBX.  It is surprising how many don’t, making it easy for hackers to break into your PBX.  They often do a network search looking for the default credentials. If they find a PBX, the games are on.
  • Make sure that your corporate network security policies include your VoIP system and PBX.  Remember that a VoIP system is a digital network system just like the rest of your server environment.  Apply appropriate security measures.
  • Make sure that your VoIP service provider is equally secure so that hackers cannot gain admin privileges to your and other VoIP systems.  Some have been seriously compromised in the past.
  • User Education.  Include VoIP aspects as part of your overall programme to educate your users against malware and hacking attacks. Hackers use social engineering techniques to find out user credentials.
  • Proactive Measures
    • Be vigilant with regular audits. Review usage logs for unusual activity.
    • Consider carrying out a penetration test on your PBX once in a while.
  • Compliance.  Sometimes security is not an option where confidentiality of information is a legal requirement.  Compliance is often good due diligence.

These examples of VoIP fraud are just a few of the ways in which increasingly sophisticated fraudsters try to separate corporates and individual from their hard-earned.   As are the recommendations as to how to thwart them.

Are you still using a Legacy Phone System? Now is the time to switch.

Are You Still Using a Legacy Phone System? Now is the Time to Switch.

The universal adoption of the Internet has led to the use of digital communications as a standard part of the business environment. Most companies are creating and implementing digitally based unified communications strategies incorporating VoIP communications built around VoIP phones, video conferencing and perhaps CCTV as integral parts.

They are doing this to take advantage of the business benefits to be gained from moving from the unlinked analogue systems to an integrated digital platform. The simplest example is the use of VoIP phones to transfer from tolled calls over the PSTN to essentially free voice communications over the Internet.

There are many other reasons to make the switch from a legacy analogue phone system to a digital VoIP system, both financial and operational.

  • Cost Benefits

    Cost Benefits

    The first and most compelling reason for making the switch is large cost savings, especially for organisations that make long-distance, national and international, calls.

    Toll Charges

    Toll Charges

    In legacy systems, communications are carried by the local PSTN service provider and are tolled calls. The costs can be very high, particularly for long-distance and international calls. They are often caps on the amount of data that can be used, and the communications speed offered by the service supplier.

    In contrast, once the initial and recurrent costs of operating an internet connection have been made, usage is essentially free. There are now many software and hardware offerings that support the creation of a unified communications platform operating over a digital connection. Many organisations have created a web presence to support marketing and customer communications, so it is probable that the connection already exists.   The move to cloud-based platforms has accelerated this process.

    Bear in mind though that not all equipment can move to digital. Some modems, fax machines and alarm systems, usually older ones, do not have digital interfaces and must operate over a legacy analogue platform. Most VoIP systems cater for this and will automatically switch inward and outward calls between the digital and analogue modes. Obviously, a small analogue frame linking the PSTN and VoIP systems is needed for support.

    So, moving to VoIP and making calls over the internet can result in complete or nearly complete removal of PSTN toll charges.  These savings can be substantial for large organisations.

  • Operational Benefits

    Operational Benefits

    The additional range of options provided by a VoIP system can bring operational advantages to an organisation.

    Hunting, Call Forwarding and Call Pick-up Groups

    Call Forwarding and Call Pick-up Groups

    In a VoIP environment, extensions can be grouped together. Hunting allows calls to be automatically forwarded to another extension in the group if they are not answered or the requested extension is busy, forwarding allows a user to programme the extension to automatically forward incoming calls to another extension and a pick-up group allows calls to be picked up by other extensions in the same group.

    Automated Support

    Automated Support

    Increasingly, VoIP systems support human operators being replaced by text or voice-based chatbots who take care of common and simple customer support requests. More complex enquiries are transferred, automatically or on request to a human operator. This reduces the number of support personnel needed and the time a customer must wait for support.

    Security

    Security

    A significant difference between analogue and VoIP systems is that users are no longer tied to a physical instrument.   Users are recognised in the VoIP system with a profile, including a password.

    Entering the password on any VoIP phone allows them to make and receive calls. This means that they can make and receive calls anywhere there is a VoIP phone, sometimes even on a different site using the same VoIP system.

    Further, users can be restricted in the types of calls they can make.  The restrictions are usually based around local, national and international calls.  Because the restrictions are based on the user, not a physical instrument, this means the old practice of using the manager’s phone to make a prohibited call no longer works.

    Accessibility

    Accessibility

    The use of SIP software on a smart device means that people can carry their extension around with them. They can make and receive calls whenever they are connected to the corporate WiFi network.  No more hiding.

  • Reputational Benefits

    Reputational Benefits

    Nowadays potential and existing customers use search engines to find suppliers and expect to communicate with them using instant messaging and email. They expect to make their purchases online.

    They are likely to avoid companies that do not have an internet presence. A similar reluctance also comes about with companies that do not use VoIP as part of their communications strategy.

    VoIP enhances company reputation.

    If your company does not currently have a VoIP system, then you must give serious consideration to making the switch. Hardware and software solutions are available for all sizes and styles of business. Some businesses should also consider the suitability of an outsourced or hosted VoIP solution.

Five ways to tailor your telephone system to match your business needs

Five Ways To Tailor Your Telephone System To Match Your Business Needs

One of the more significant developments in computing in recent years has been the wholesale adoption of VoIP systems by businesses and increasingly by home and mobile users.   Simply put, VoIP systems remove the costs and restrictions imposed by the traditional PSTN service providers.

Because of digital convergence among other things, the initial objective, to replace PSTN connections with digital connections has grown by leaps and bounds into fully-fledged integrated communications environments supporting media connections, not just voice.

Businesses are now presented with options among others to improve their presence and reduce their costs.  Here are five such.

  1. Cost reductions through Call Security

    Cost reductions

    In the past, PBX systems were location based.  Extension numbers were tied to a physical location such as a desktop.  The ability to restrict calls was linked to the physical device. Anyone using the handset could only make the calls that were allowed for that extension number, for example, local calls only, no national or international calls.

    VoIP systems are by contrast person based in that an individual uses a PIN number to log-on to the VoIP system wherever they might be.  They can log-on from the traditional desktop handset or by using SIP technologies from a smart device.   Call security, therefore, becomes person based rather than location based.  The ability to make calls resides in the individual profile. Applying call security according to individual needs becomes that much easier.

  2. Business presence

    Business presence

    Using VoIP can make a business seem much larger than it actually is. Two examples are automated call forwarding and departmental assignment.

    With automated call forwarding, calls made to a local number are automatically forwarded to a central number.  In this way, a company can seem to have a local presence, but in actuality operate a central support organisation.  Many companies have done this with their call-centre operation.  For example, British Airways operated a centralised call centre in India.  All calls to a local or national call centre were automatically forwarded there.

    With a departmental assignment, different extension numbers can be published for sales, finance, procurement, and so-on.  However, they can be automatically forwarded to a single extension number.  The company looks like it has different operational departments when in reality it does not.

  3. Customer Relationship Management (“CRM”)

    Customer Relationship  Management

    An organisation that operates a call-centre to provide customer support can tailor its VoIP system to support a CRM environment.  The VoIP system can be linked to a database application.  In this environment, the call-centre operative will have customer information displayed on a local computer screen when that customer calls in.  The data is retrieved using the incoming telephone number.  The operator can then answer the call with “Good day <customer name> “ giving a much more personal and warm aspect to the interaction.

    Often details of previous and current interactions with that customer are shown giving the ability to deal more effectively with the customer.  VoIP provides that capability.

  4. Automated Documentation Support

    Automated Documentation Support

    A large part of customer support is providing documentation, usually product related.  This obviously can be accomplished via a website application, but most VoIP systems can also provide this facility.

    The requestor dials a number, taken for example from a media advertisement and is presented with the option to email a document to a specified address.   In this way, the requestor receives the information they want, and the company has an email address for future marketing activity.   All without any manual intervention thanks to VoIP.

  5. Automated Call Handling

    Automated Call Handling

    There is nothing more frustrating than calling an organisation and being forwarded from extension to extension as your call is not answered. The use of calling, hunting and auto-forwarding groups maintained by the VoIP system can significantly ease that pain.

    While they are similar there are differences between calling and hunting groups.  Calling groups allow anyone in that group to pick up a call for anyone else in the group.   For example, a call to an extension where the normal answerer is unavailable can be picked up by someone else nearby.  This is especially useful after hours where desks are unattended.

    Hunting groups automate this process.  If a call is not answered after a certain time interval it is automatically forwarded to another extension number.   Calling and Hunting groups often work together to improve customer service.

    Auto-forwarding is particularly useful for support and alarm calls.  The VoIP system can be programmed to auto-forward calls to a particular number to another number, for example, the duty engineer. The forwarding can be done manually by manually programming the number into the extension profile itself, or in some cases can be accomplished via a calendar. In this way, incoming calls should be answered, not just ring out.

    The increasing sophistication of VoIP systems now enables small businesses to punch above their weight and bring improved customer service levels at little or no cost.

How Business VoIP solutions can impact a company

How Business VoIP solutions can impact a company

Most will agree that the Internet has given rise to a major upheaval in Unified Communications, including Voice over IP (“VoIP”).   Business worldwide is embracing VoIP solutions as a tool to reduce communications costs, increase communications effectiveness and increase company profile.

It’s not just in the ability to make toll-free or low-cost calls that VoIP Solutions are having an effect.  Company culture is changing too.

If we take the cost benefits of VoIP Solutions as read, there are many other ways in which they can impact a company.Continue reading

What is the difference between VoIP and IP Telephony?

In recent times there has been a quantum increase in the use of digital communications, both in the business and domestic sectors. Businesses use IP Telephony to reduce their communications costs, improve interactions and service levels with staff and customers and present a better business image to the world at large.

Domestic users can now use VoIP to talk with and see far-flung friends and relatives easily and cheaply over long distances from their smart devices using VoIP capable apps like Skype and WhatsApp. No more expensive long-distance calls.

The terms VoIP and IP Telephony are often used interchangeably to describe digitally based communications.  Are they, in fact, the same thing, or are there technical and non-technical differences?Continue reading

How VoIP Affects Business Mobility

It is difficult nowadays to find a business that does not use Business VoIP. The cost and business benefits of it are undeniable.  Allied to improvements in digital telephony and digital convergence, most large and medium-sized businesses use it extensively as part of their internal and customer-facing processes.

One of the major benefits embraced by business is the ability to improve mobility and accessibility of staff.

In the past, whenever an employee left the office they were mostly uncontactable.  At best they were contactable in the evening at home or in their accommodation on the road. This made communications between staff and the office difficult at best.Continue reading

How to protect VoIP from scammers

How to protect VoIP from scammers

VoIP for Business provides a range of benefits, including substantial cost-savings that make it a must-have for most businesses.  However, as with most IT advances, VoIP has attracted the dark side of the developers.   Hackers and scammers are using VoIP for Business as a way to steal data and execute hacking exploits.

As with other types of malware attacks, business need to be aware of how these exploits are executed and what preventative measures they can take.

The first thing to understand is that most successful hacking attacks are by having users provide sensitive information. Scammers are becoming more sophisticated, and they are increasingly using VoIP to steal personal and company data or just cause mischief.Continue reading

Reasons why Cloud VoIP can help your Business

Reasons Why Cloud VoIP Can Help Your Business

The benefits that VoIP for Business can bring to your business are undeniable.  Add to that Cloud VoIP, hosted or on-site  and you have a winning combination that can add significantly to your business profile.

Depending on the size of the business, either implementation can be applicable.  However, having said that, a cloud-based approach can fit more easily with an existing cloud-based environment, either on‑site or hosted.

Before choosing a particular approach, it is best to consider firstly whether on-site or hosted VoIP is better suited to the business, and secondly, whether a Cloud-based architecture is appropriate.Continue reading

The Ins and OUTs of Cloud PBX And Microsoft Skype For Business

The Ins and OUTs of Cloud PBX And Microsoft Skype For Business

One of the success stories of recent times has been the adoption of Digital Telephony by all sizes of business.  Large businesses have installed their own hardware and software, and small businesses tend to use Cloud PBX implementations, either in-house or hosted.

A more recent development has been the convergence of video conferencing with Cloud PBX implementations. Video calls using applications like WhatsApp and Skype have been around for some time, and have been used over the PSTN and digital telephone networks from both desktop and smart devices.  Since Microsoft bought Skype, introduced Skype for Business, and fully integrated it with the Azure cloud environment, it has become a major player in the Cloud PBX landscape.Continue reading