Fraud - "What is this charge on my bill?"

Second article in a series covering the challenges of fraud in the IP world

By Steve Heap
April 2013

Last month I gave a broad overview of the scale of fraud in the international telecoms industry, with a promise of more detail in future articles. Now we can look in more detail at each of the fraud types in turn – this month, False Answer Supervision.

A strange technical term, perhaps, but this basically refers to a fraud where the answer signal, that triggers billing in all preceding switches, and for the customer, is deliberately modified to charge for non-conversational time.

Early Answer

There are two variants of this fraud, both caused when the fraudulent carrier returns the answer signal before the called customer has answered the call – these are shown diagrammatically below. The less obnoxious case, early answer, starts billing when ringing starts, increasing the apparent duration of the call, and cost, for all previous parties. Payment is due even if the call is dropped due to no answer, but if the call is answered, at least a conversation will take place!

Recorded Message

In the second variant, call diversion, the fraudulent carrier routes the call to a recorded message that first plays a ringing tone, and then proceeds to a recording that mimics an answer and conversation – all with the intent of keeping the calling customer on the line and paying for the call for as long as possible. This is a significant problem to the calling customer – not only do they pay for a 4 minute call, but they never managed to speak to the right person. If they try again and hit the same issue, this can cause a significant customer service issue for the retail service provider.


Detection and removal of FAS

If the fraudulent carrier simply answered all calls, it would be easy to spot from the normal reports of call quality (specifically Answer Seizure Ratio would be 100%). In the early days, some people did that, but they made money for a day or so, but were then identified and removed from the traffic stream. Today, fraud is a much cleverer business and so only a proportion of calls will be answered, the fraud will be active for a couple of hours then moved to another destination and so on. As a result, simple reports that measure the average call holding time, or the average connection rate no longer cut it!

To really get on top of the issue, carriers are increasingly deploying advanced statistical detection systems that are looking deep into the pattern of call details to identify small differences from the norm – is there a proportion of calls being answered in exactly 1 second, for instance. Some carriers are making a particular play of having advanced systems in place – Tata, for example, announced their partnership with IPsoft to stop fraud at source and take strong action against carriers found to be artificially boosting their margins. Other carriers are following suit, as a reputation for high quality is difficult to gain, but easy to lose!

In the next article I'll delve deeper into Wangiri Fraud - one that is relatively new on the scene!

For more information on the challenges of fraud in the telecom environment or any other project in this segment, please contact Isabelle Paradis at: or +1 514 270 1636