You may have heard the term toll-free traffic pumping, but for anyone who hasn’t, this is the abuse of toll-free numbers through automated dialers to generate artificial calls. As surprising as it may sound, fraudsters have caused significant damage to business’ bottom lines with this scam.
In the first quarter of 2015, companies experienced a new wave of fraudulent calls to their toll-free numbers. These phone calls are generally identified post-call through analytics that count repeat callers; they’re usually marked by dead air or pre-recorded sound clips. Our customers have estimated that this type of fraudulent traffic has reached as high as 30% of their total traffic, and the subsequent revenue losses are substantial. For example, if your company handles 5M calls a month at a cost of about $.025/ per minute and 30% of those are unwanted calls, that’s a loss of ~$75k a month.
How’s It Done?
There are two ways fraudsters implement this scam. One is to hit as many numbers as possible for short durations, creating revenue by getting a piece of the “connected time” dollars. The other is to generate longer calls to a smaller number of 1-800 numbers and interactive voice response systems (IVRs) to grab a piece of the connected time and per-minute charges. So how do they even get the numbers to begin with? We suspect that toll-free numbers are dialed incrementally until a vulnerable number is found. Examples of vulnerable numbers could include a private branch exchange (PBX) that can be hacked or a looping/unrestricted IVR system. Highly vulnerable numbers such as these are then exploited directly or sold on black markets by their discoverers to the individuals running the scam. Much of this traffic involves the caller spoofing their caller ID (CLID). This sort of spoofing prevents traditional spam and nuisance caller identifications from being effective and results in a very challenging problem for businesses to solve.
Finding the Solution to the Problem
Even with the added challenge of spoofed CLIDs, Whitepages Pro has developed a system to address toll-free traffic pumping. Through our Phone Reputation solution, we have developed a set of 10 rules in our infrastructure that can identify fraudulent traffic in real time and differentiate it from legitimate consumer calls. Our algorithms look at various patterns such as call distribution based on phone data attributes, which Whitepages has thanks to our proprietary database of 100% of U.S. phone numbers, and rolling statistical averages across our system.
Early testing is showing great results. We’ve identified as many as 80% of toll-free traffic pumping calls with accuracy rates as high as 99%. And with our constantly growing new data sources, rules, links and enhancements to our algorithms, this performance will only go up.
Phone Reputation Identifies Traffic Pumping
Our newest API offering, Phone Reputation, identifies high-risk unwanted calls, one of which (you guessed it!) is toll-free traffic pumping.
Below is an example of our API Response:
Backed By Industry-Leading Experience
Many companies have tried to develop their own solutions to combat this problem, but with limited call signals, traffic pumping activity still gets through and many legitimate calls are blocked. We’ve been working on this problem for a long time and have the experience to back it up. Our third generation platform is currently taking in 2.5 billion voice calls/SMS signals a month for our Phone Reputation service; meaning that we have incredible data for detecting unwanted calls like traffic pumping.
Check out our Phone Reputation facts:
- Our back-end takes in upwards of 10,000 call or text events a second.
- It can respond to upwards of 8,000 lookups a second while maintaining our carrier-class response times of a few hundred milliseconds.
- It leverages over 35 distinct details about a phone number, and dozens of different rules to decide on reputation scores.
- The time between the end of a phone call and our Reputation Service tweaking scores is less than 10 seconds.
Come back next week and see how the Federal Communications Commission is helping empower businesses and consumers to protect against unwanted calls.