Phone hackers strike and the customer pays – is that fair?
Posted by Rick Howard on 03/11 at 10:00 AM Dial through fraud, Security,
Telecoms hacker image

Fraud of any kind is usually a faceless crime in a digital age where criminals can hide behind computers in far-flung corners of the world, while the effect they have can be devastating.

Dial-through fraud, phone fraud, PBX fraud and phreaking, and is one of the most lucrative scams in the UK, costing companies an estimated £1.5bn a year. In its most common form, highly organised criminals hack into phone systems and make calls to premium numbers that they profit from. Other types of telecoms fraud are detailed in our guide here.

No matter how the breach occurs, the result is often the same with business owners trying to work out whose fault it is to prevent them from having to pay the bill.

This was recently highlighted in a letter sent to The Guardian’s consumer rights editor. The owner of a small company was facing a telephone bill for nearly £12,000 after multiple calls were made to overseas premium numbers during a two-week period.

They turned to their telecoms provider to put a bar on all international and premium rate calls to prevent any further fraud taking place and allegedly blamed a lack of regular information from the carrier and the telephone system provider for not supplying a more secure solution. The telephone system provider in turn apparently blamed the telecoms company for not noticing the unusual call activity.

I really feel for the customer here. This is a horrible situation. Even if they had updated their telephone system to ensure it was at its most secure, this is not a belt and braces guarantee. As a telecoms provider, we monitor our customers’ calls for activity like this, but these hackers are cunning... they strike at the most inopportune moments, such as weekends, late at night and bank holidays.

As a result, swcomms has gone one step further and offers customers a Fraud Management Service that limits the liability of a hacking incident. Our customers never pay more than £750 if they fall victim to telecoms fraud. It may be more than their usual monthly phone bill but at least it is not thousands of pounds and most businesses would be able to survive this payment.

With this type of fraud on the rise, it is critical that businesses ask their telecoms providers what monitoring they provide and if they offer a liability protection option. If you are renewing your contract, this would be a good time to ask these questions, so at least you can seek out another provider if you are not satisfied with their answers. Similarly, keeping your telephone system software and licences up to date will help too along with several other practical steps also available in our guide.

The frustration remains though that it is almost never the hackers themselves that are brought to justice. They are almost the forgotten party in the whole sorry affair. With most telecoms hackers located overseas, there is nothing the UK police can do.

If you need advice on telecoms fraud or wish to switch to a more proactive provider, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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Rick Howard's avatar
Rick Howard on 03/11/2017

Rick is all about customer service...he is super keen to ensure we are doing a good job.

He's also our go-to lines and minutes man-on-the-ground. A creative and analytical professional with an excellent record of achievement within a range of industries, Rick works with confidence, flair and a strict work discipline.

Rick can do the best single eyebrow raise in the office; while out of the office, he is a steam punk aficionado.

Contact: rick.howard@swcomms.co.uk

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