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Damaging telecom fraud scheme exploits inter-carrier trust


Telecoms fraud costs €29 billion a year and rising, finds a report from the European Union’s law enforcement agency, Europol, and cybersecurity firm Trend Micro.

The Cyber-Telecom Crime Report 2019 warns that the reduced cost and increased availability of hacking equipment mean telecom fraud is becoming a low-risk alternative to traditional financial crime, and that schemes such as International Revenue-Sharing Fraud are gaining greater traction.

Well-known scams are still ongoing, such as ‘vishing', where victims are tricked into divulging their personal, financial or security information over the phone.

‘One (ring) and cut' or ‘Wangiri’ (which is Japanese for ‘one ring and drop the call’) is also one of the most common types of fraud,  where criminals dupe people into calling premium rate numbers.

Revenue-sharing fraud

However, the report notes that International Revenue Sharing Fraud (IRSF) has been the most damaging fraud scheme to date. It involves transferring monetary value from one carrier to another, based on the inter-carrier trust between telecom operators.

Fraudsters wait for the logs to expire before executing further money laundering steps.

The report looks at how the move to software has impacted telecoms fraud as well as how threats will evolve with 5G and even 6G.

Hacking the system

“Telecommunications fraud is another example of criminals ‘hacking the system’ in order to abuse legitimate enterprises for criminal gain,” said Steven Wilson, Head of the Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre. “While this is not a new crime area, it does represent a new challenge for many law enforcement agencies throughout the European Union.”

Co-operation and information-sharing between law enforcement and the private sector has become essential in the fight against these types of crime, the report notes.

In 2018, Europol set up the Europol EC3 CyTel working group, bringing together more than 70 experts from law enforcement and the global telecommunications industry.

“The concept of a global telecom network, with unified telecommunications service providers and law enforcement, is essential for this fusion of cyber-telecom intelligence,” Wilson said.

Download the report