Watch Out for Fraud!

Economy of Belarus - - CONTENTS -

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

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