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Contact centres: balancing happy customers and fraud prevention

5 November 2019

Happy customers and fraud prevention

Unfortunately, I fear that even with all the advancements in cybersecurity it doesn’t mean the end of fraud. I think it’s only natural for fraudsters to turn their attention to alternative, more vulnerable channels where there isn’t equivalent security, such as the contact centre. In fact, according to Aite Group, 61% of all fraud involves the contact centre at some stage.

Who’s on the other end of the phone? Frustrated customer or happy fraudster?

By simply withholding their phone number before calling your contact centre, fraudsters hide their identity. Alternatively, technology is making it easier for fraudsters than ever to mask their calls, such as spoofing apps that enable callers to appear to be someone else. Do you really know who is on the other end of the call?

The rising identification and verification challenge

With new technology making it easier than ever to manipulate calls, identifying callers by their phone number is no longer effective. It’s no wonder that many contact centres rely on knowledge-based authentication (KBA) to verify callers.

Can you remember the third letter of your account password for your mobile network operator? Or what you put as your favourite food as a secret answer when you set-up that insurance policy years ago? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

An IBM study showed that 10-15% of people couldn’t correctly answer the questions as part of KBA on their first attempt either. Yet, 17% of respondents could guess the answers for an acquaintance. Yet fraudsters who have spent time gathering personal data, buying data from the dark web, phishing attacks or using social media, have all the answers they need to pass the security checks.  

In an effort to protect customer accounts, the number of questions asked to each caller has increased. As a result, the time taken to authenticate callers has increased to over 34 seconds, double what it was just five years ago. To put that in perspective, the annual cost just to authenticate callers in an average 250 agent contact centre has grown to £1.3 million.

For the vast majority of legitimate callers, the manual KBAs are just adding a barrier to speaking with an agent to get their enquiry sorted. Customers want help, not the Spanish inquisition. Worse still, as we’ve seen KBAs aren’t an effective method to stop fraud.

Contact centre agents, a weakness in your human firewall?

It’s widely publicised that people are often a weak link in fraud defences. It’s helpful to think about “patching your people” to improve the Human Firewall. Contact centre agents are in a particularly difficult position. They are torn between contrasting motives: resolve the customer’s enquiry as effectively and efficiently as possible but also to maintain the security of customer accounts.

Fraudsters are masters of manipulation, they keep calling to find “friendly” agents who are easier to manipulate. Once identified the fraudster creates a factious often stressful situation that compels the agent to fulfil the fraudster’s request; reset my password now as I’m just about to board a plane and my partner needs money to buy the kids dinner. These calls often sound incredibly convincing, even after we know that it’s a fraudster on the other end.

Is the answer more self-service interactions?

Perhaps a solution to fight fraud is to use technology to enable more self-service styled transactions through automated telephone systems, like the Interactive Voice Response (IVR). However, your IVR is also vulnerable to attacks from fraudsters as well.

Fraudsters take advantage of the relative anonymity and automated menus of the IVR to validate personal data or gather additional information about a victim to execute a future attack. Fraudsters have been known to programme robo-diallers to automatically navigate IVR menus, gathering additional information and even hack into an account using brute force.

Adding a new level of security: the voice firewall

Wouldn’t it be helpful to protect your contact centre from outside threats in the same way that you protect your computer network? Identifying high-risk callers before the call enters your contact centre. Smartnumbers thinks so as we’ve recently introduced a voice firewall.

The voice firewall protects your contact centre by examining calls while in the network and redirects high-risk calls away from the normal call flow. This protects the IVR from inquisition from fraudsters and enables agents to focus on delivering excellent customer service rather than being worried about unwittingly enabling fraudsters.

Fight fraud and improve customer satisfaction

Smartnumbers determines the level of trust of each call by analysing more than 50 attributes of calls while in the carrier network. By identifying trusted callers pre-answer, you can safely offer legitimate customers access to a broader range of self-service transactions within the IVR. Additionally, having more assurance of the caller’s identity you can fast track authentication should they wish to speak with an agent. Either way, the caller has their enquiry dealt with quicker, a massive boost to customer satisfaction.

On the other hand, by identifying high-risk calls in the network you protect your contact centre from fraud at the very first stage. Suspicious calls can be sent directly to specialist teams or agents can be notified about the level of risk that the call represents. A big blow to fraudsters.

Posted by: Grant White

Grant is the Senior Marketing Manager at Smartnumbers.


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Posted by: Grant White

Grant is the Senior Marketing Manager at Smartnumbers.