Watch Out for Fraud!
Beltelecom works together with mobile companies to fight fraud in communications networks
If the subscriber knows he or she is taking a foreign call while the displayed phone number is a Belarusian one, it is a clear sign of illegal traffic termination
In addition to improving the quality of communication and increasing the number of services available, the rapid development of telecommunication technologies enables conditions that, unfortunately, allow scammers to earn money at the expense of legal subscribers by interfering with the delivery of services. More frauds have been registered on the Belarusian telecommunications market recently. Beltelecom representatives revealed why phone scammers tend to generate calls to Monaco and Serbia and how subscribers can determine whether they are involved in illegal traffic termination or not.
Fraud as a technological term has been used for quite some time. Wikipedia’s definition is rather precise: fraud is a kind of scam in the area of information technologies, in particular, unauthorized actions and illegal use of resources and services in communication networks. Fighting fraud is difficult but possible.
Illegal termination of international phone traffic that bypasses the legally established procedures is quite a popular kind of fraud in the world and in Belarus. Criminals use illegal routes to transfer international phone calls. While subscribers pay money for the service, they do not get a quality service. The fact damages the image of the telecommunication company while the company itself fails to get proper revenues, explained Beltelecom specialists. If the subscriber knows he or she is taking a foreign call while the displayed phone number is a Belarusian one, it is a clear sign of illegal traffic termination. The subscriber is then advised to report information about the number to his or her telecommunication company or Beltelecom. By doing so, the subscriber will be able to protect the right to quality telecommunication services and will help the telecom company to stop the criminals.
It is also dangerous when scammers make citizens part of their schemes without the latter knowing it. Scammers buy SIM cards from individuals or corporations or user names and passwords to access Beltelecom’s Maxiphone service for the sake of using the credentials for illegal traffic termination. The criminals assure the sellers that such deals are safe.
“The situation is not as safe as it looks initially. First, the subscribers intentionally break terms of their contract with the telecommunication company, which may be the reason for the latter to terminate the contract. Second, as part of the contract the subscribers agree to pay for services rendered on time while criminals make no routine payments and do not settle the debts on the subscriber accounts that have been blocked for fraud. The telecommunication company is then forced to collect the debts from the subscriber and the sums collected may greatly exceed the amount of money the subscribers received from criminals. Third, depending on the money received from the scammers or the damage inflicted upon the telecommunication company the person that sold the SIM cards or Maxiphone credentials will face administrative or criminal charges for illegal business venture and for being accomplice to the fraud. So far investigations into ten criminal cases have been completed. All the guilty parties have been sentenced to 5-7 years in prison. Legal proceedings continue as part
of another criminal investigation,” Beltelecom’s representatives noted.
In June 2014 a self-employed businessman bought 150 Maxiphone phone numbers from Beltelecom. It turned out later that the businessman bought them to resell to scammers. The scammers managed to use only half of the numbers within 24 hours. The other ones were blocked but even then the businessman still owed over Br2 million to Beltelecom for the services rendered.
Illegal generation of outgoing foreign calls is another popular type of fraud. Scammers secure illegal access to the telecommunication company’s network by hacking the software of end users. Corporate automatic phone stations are often targeted as part of this type of fraud. “At present many companies try to minimize the cost of telecommunication services and make their phone communications more up-to-date and effective by installing Internet-enabled corporate automatic phone stations. Internet access, however, enables scammers to use the phone stations for fraud schemes,” Beltelecom specialists said.
A corporate phone station of a Minsk-based company was hacked in August 2014. That night scammers managed to generate outgoing foreign calls with the total duration of about 320 minutes. The calls primarily went to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The damage was estimated at roughly Br780,000. However, after the incident the hacked company did nothing to prevent further hacks. Five days later scammers hacked the corporate phone station again and generated calls with the total duration of about 840 minutes, with the damage estimated to exceed Br2.5 million.
In late September 2014 scammers hacked another corporate phone station of a Minsk-based company. Within less than 12 hours they generated calls to Monaco with the total duration of over 2,000 minutes, with the damage close to Br7.5 million. In November 2014 a phone station of a self-employed businessman was hacked. The scammers generated 350 minutes of phone calls to Monaco, with the damage exceeding Br850,000.
“Scammers have been recently targeting Serbia, Monaco, Bosnia and Herzegovina for generating outgoing calls. It is difficult to say anything about the choice of these countries. It is possible that it is easier to get phone numbers that generate traffic over there or it is easier to cut a deal and split the profit with the telecoms,” noted Beltelecom specialists. “We are taking technical measures to localize frauds of this kind, however, owners of corporate phone stations are the ones responsible for protecting their stations against hacks.”
Beltelecom specialists pointed out that if the owner of a corporate automatic phone station fails to secure the station against external tampering, it is highly probable that the station will be hacked by scammers. In an absolute majority of cases traffic is generated in the evening, at night and during weekends. Depending on the number of communication lines the phone station uses the damage may reach dozens and even hundreds of millions of Belarusian rubles.
Combating fraud requires a systemic approach; this is why Beltelecom has teamed up with cellular companies, which work hard to fight fraudsters. In January 2012 Beltelecom, MTS, Velcom, and BeST set up a joint working group to combat illegal phone communication services. Although telecommunication frauds are still a threat, the scale of the problem has been greatly diminished thanks to the joint efforts of the telecommunication companies.
Beltelecom, MTS, Velcom, and BeST have set up a joint working group to combat illegal phone communication services