On Dec. 13, Syniverse hosted its first webinar to share our latest findings on global mobile fraud. The session, titled “Global Fraud Trends Review,” spotlighted the results of the second report in our “Understanding the Global Threat of Mobile Fraud” series, which examined 12 months of firsthand data on mobile fraud across an area encompassing over 150 countries.
My colleague Jeeson Thekkekara, Senior Product Manager, and I broke down some of the most important insights from the report, including the most common countries where fraud originates and terminates, and the times of the week and year when fraud is most likely to occur.
We were delighted to draw a large number of attendees and receive a number of questions during and after the sessions. To share some of the highlights, in this post Jeeson and I have selected some of the top questions that we think are of the most interest and answered them below. We hope you find these insightful, and we also encourage you to download the full report below.
We look forward to building on these learnings with more webinars this year. If you have any suggestions for fraud topics that are of particular interest to you, please let us know in the comments section below.
Selected Questions from “Global Fraud Trends Review” Webinar
What is the significance of obtaining 12 months of roaming fraud data in this report?
Operators want an accurate picture of how fraud is threatening their business, but what they mostly have to go on now are hearsay, discussion, opinion and other unreliable information. Having 12 months’ worth of data relating to 150 countries is something the industry hasn’t had up to now. The value of this data is that it allows us to know in much clearer detail what’s going on now, and it allows us to zero in on trends and monitor for new developments in those areas.
An example of the insight that this data can give us lies in the particular geographic patterns that reveal vulnerabilities to fraud. Using this, operators can get a better picture of the locations that have the highest risk for fraud. If, for example, we identify users roaming from the U.K. to Spain and then making calls to African countries, we can develop a profile for those users and classify their activity as being highly indicative of fraud. That’s valuable insight for operators to use for fraud detection.
Why do we continue to face the challenge of getting access to accurate and consistent fraud data?
Different operators take different approaches to measuring fraud. For example, some operators consider interconnect fraud or SIM box fraud as abuse, so they exclude it from their fraud data, whereas others do regard this as fraud. In some regions it is illegal, and in others it is legal. There are many other examples of different ways in which operators measure fraud, and, accordingly, with these different measurements being used, the industry isn’t able to speak the same language to draw useful comparisons.
Similarly, a parallel challenge is that there is no industry-standard definition for calculating the value of fraud, with some operators defining it on a wholesale level and some on a retail level, and some basing it on call records they receive at a particular time and some basing it on an extrapolation of call records over a period of time. Value thus remains an arbitrary thing to measure, and, arguably, one of the industry’s major needs is to establish a precise measurement for the financial impact of fraud and adopt it as a benchmark.
Finally, another very real challenge with getting accurate and consistent global fraud data is that it can be counter to the norms of certain cultures and local practices to reveal fraud data. This information is thereby kept confidential.
What were some of the biggest surprises in the report related to the times of the year and the days of the week when fraud attacks occur?
I was surprised that the data didn’t show much correlation to seasons, and that there weren’t trends corresponding to, say, summertime, when more people may be traveling or making more international calls.
As far as the days of the week, I was surprised to see a minor peak in the middle of the week, on Wednesday. However, it was no surprise to see the biggest peak occurring on the weekend. I absolutely expected to see that, particularly as in some regions fraud monitoring is not as diligent outside business hours.
What steps did the report reveal as the best ones that operators should take to minimize fraud attacks?
Above all, the report showed that operators must be vigilant every day of the week and every week of the year, and that they must be able to monitor data in real time to effectively counter fraud. They cannot entirely rely on previous patterns and decide when to man their fraud-prevention operations and when to allocate technology resources based only on those patterns. In fact, the report really indicates that the opposite holds true: the times when operators least suspect fraud attacks will occur is when they should be on guard against it the most.
A second lesson unveiled by the report is that it’s crucial to understand behavior patterns on a global level. A hot country for fraud attacks one week may not be a hot country the next week. Again, rapid and consistent detection is crucial, and having access to global intelligence is a major factor in achieving this.
What areas of fraud will Syniverse be concentrating on in its next reports?
Having established some key conclusions during our 2016 analysis, we’re interested to see how they trend during 2017. Our ultimate aim is to increase understanding among our customers and industry peers to help them optimize their approaches to fraud management. Doing this not only includes highlighting the established high-risk areas, but also identifying emerging areas that diverge from this established norm.
At the same time, we plan to complete our evaluation of proposing a method by which the value of fraud prevented can be measured. We think the industry is at a critical juncture in terms of needing a consistent way of measuring the financial impact of fraud, but the specifics of how to do it need to be assessed through further dialogue this year.
If you have any questions about our report or the findings discussed here, please let us know in the comments section below.
James Stewart joined Syniverse in 2008 and brings more than 25 years of experience in the mobile industry, with a particular specialization in fraud prevention. In addition to being Director for Fraud Product Management at Syniverse, he serves as the Chairman of the GSMA’s Roaming and Interconnect Fraud and Security Subgroup. Before joining Syniverse, James was a Client Partner at Fair Isaac, in its telecoms division. It was during his tenure with Fair Isaac that he became directly involved in the creation of the near-real-time roaming data exchange (NRTRDE). Prior to his position at Fair Isaac, James worked at Neural Technologies and Cerebrus Solutions, and specialized in fraud and risk management. Previously, he was with Nortel Networks, where he spent 10 years working in Nortel’s e-business group to help operators overcome revenue assurance challenges. He holds a Bachelor of Science in electronics and electrical engineering from Brunel University in the U.K.