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Voice-enabled fraud could be the next big opportunity for criminals

Voice-enabled technology is becoming more prevalent in consumers’ lives, another way of talking to our smart devices – from our phones to our televisions and even refrigerators. Particularly in the era of Covid-19, when consumers may be wary of touching their phones while out and about, voice has the power to transform the customer experience, especially when it comes to consumer security and authentication practices.


However, while the conversational economy presents many new opportunities, it doesn’t come without risks, as evidenced by Pindrop’s 2020 Voice Intelligence Report, which revealed increased fraud and security threats both in and out of the contact centre. According to Pindrop’s report, which evaluates new fraud trends and risks, voice fraud is continuing to impact contact centres. An average of 90 voice fraud attacks occurred every minute in 2019, which equates to one out of every 770 calls. Not only are fraudulent calls increasing, but fraudsters are getting smarter in their attacks, targeting where they will get the biggest return on investment. In 2019, the banking industry saw the most notable increase in fraud, which is especially worrisome since banking remains the largest channel for contact centre calls.


During Covid-19, fraudsters have continued to increase their attacks on both the financial and insurance industries. Many Pindrop customers are seeing fraud spikes as high as 150 per cent, stretching resources and making them more vulnerable to these attacks. During the pandemic, call volumes have spiked more than 1,000 per cent compared to prior periods.


Fraudsters aren’t limiting their attacks to contact centres. With advancements in AI, voice fraud such as deep fakes pose increasing threats to business and governments. In 2019 we saw the first successful synthetic voice fraud attack on the CEO of a European company, resulting in a  £200,000 loss. In the US, we saw how simply slowing an audio sample of Nancy Pelosi’s voice and slurring her speech could wreak havoc on a public figure’s reputation.


Pindrop’s report showed that consumers have continued to engage in unsafe online behaviour, using weak or identical passwords across multiple accounts. A recent Pindrop survey on security habits revealed that consumers are more worried than usual about fraud during the pandemic, although they aren’t taking any extra steps to protect their personal information or data – a mistake that could be costly for themselves and their employers, since many are working from home.


In addition to consumers’ poor data security habits, many businesses employ outdated security methods, such as relying solely on call centre agents to detect fraudulent callers, rather than employing sophisticated technology to assess the risk of every call. Weak protection, such as phone channel security, has been very slow to adapt to the rapidly changing fraud landscape. Security has primarily been through Knowledge Based Authentication (KBA) or pre-recorded phrases, both of which are now outdated. To counter increasing fraud threats during Covid-19 and beyond, enterprises must consider adopting new authentication and security practices. Some updated practices to consider include:


• Adopting a risk-based solution that analyses each and every call to your contact centre

• Using layered intelligence beyond two-factor authentication

• Allows frictionless enrolment and multi-factor authentication that results in significantly higher enrolment rates than currently achieved

• Ensuring all contact centre employees understand the evolving threat landscape


With continued advances in technology and fraudsters increasingly growing more sophisticated in their attacks, businesses will need to continue to evolve their fraud prevention strategies to keep up. Additionally, they will need to continue to educate consumers about online security best practices.

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