MEF Programme Director James Williams assembled a panel of experts last month to discuss the new challenges facing brands and consumers in the context of the ongoing global pandemic. As e-commerce and digitalisation are by necessity on the rapid rise, how is the industry tackling the challenges of creating a smooth customer journey for consumers possibly unfamiliar with the digital landscape, while protecting them from mobile fraud and would be bad actors?

Untold millions of people globally have had to force themselves kicking and screaming into the world of online shopping. Bricks and mortar establishments had to push the accelerator hard on all things digital transformation as government lockdowns ravaged the traditional face of retail globally.

And ‘traditional’ shoppers, more accustomed to physically interacting with their goods and retailers in person, had to likewise adjust. Welcome to what 2020 brought with it. About as far from ‘normal’ as one could ever countenance, wasn’t it.

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In the latest MEF Connects webinar we talked to executives from companies across the mobile ecosystem about the importance of smoothing the path for brands and consumers in the digital, online world. The speakers were:

  • Mijo Soldin, Director of Operator Partnerships with Infobip
  • Stuart Mitchell, Product Management with Cellusys
  • Neil Downing, VP of Products with TMT Analysis
  • Mike Round, Project Director with MEF

Digital transformation had been progressing nicely in a balanced fashion but markets had to adjust within a matter of weeks. Time was no longer a luxury anybody had and transformation occurred at a pace alien and uncomfortable to most. Banks were no exception.

Mike Round is a Project Director with MEF and Independent Secretariat for the SMS Sender ID Protection Registry project in the UK. The project was set up to reduce the impact of A2P smishing and Mike is now looking to take this project well beyond the UK’s borders as well.

It’s most definitely not just doom and gloom though. Although there certainly is plenty left still to do, and we are most definitely not out of the woods yet, operators are starting to change their mindsets. Governments are coming to terms with the role they have to play in educating their citizens about the risks out there too.”

Smishing is a clear and present danger with Registry members in the UK (banks, merchants and indeed government) reporting victims’ average loss of between £3,800 and £6,000. One bank in the UK has a case where a customer lost £500k. Fraud is big business with banks reporting that victims typically have their whole account balance removed.

How motivated is the system to protect brands and consumers? This was the point picked up by Mijo Soldin from Infobip. Responsible for the management of over 650 mobile network operator relationships globally, Mijo is more than well placed to provide a global perspective.

In India the government is firmly at the centre of initiatives to stamp fraud out, sanctioning that all SMS traffic must pass through one central filter. Motivation increasingly comes from the business side through monetisation of all A2P traffic but there are still markets where sadly no clear-cut motivating factors are regarded as being.

Customers of TMT Analysis use them to route billions of SMS messages and to provide fraud and identity management. Insight and market intelligence on mobile numbers is what Neil Downing develops solutions for and Asia was highlighted by him as an area having experienced a recent huge increase in phone related problems because of the advent of track and trace – people leaving their phone numbers in more and more places has more readily allowed for the compilations of active phone number lists which can all too easily find their way into the hands of fraudsters…

The eagle-eyed amongst you will already recognise Stuart Mitchell from Cellusys who spends his days helping mobile operators – and indeed organisations of all shapes and sizes – clean the SMS channel of clutter and fraud attempt. A MEF regular, Stuart raised the point that the problem of phishing has migrated over to long codes, long numbers. Cellusys is seeing the phishing problem on the up and no market is totally protected.

Stuart voiced what we know many of use are feeling, namely how sick and tired we are of phishing messages impacting ourselves, our families and friends. But no one group of entities can alone stop the curse.

The URLs powering many phishing attempts can exist for a matter of hours only and website building companies are not verifying what the websites they are facilitating the creation of are actually doing. They have to do their bit. All stakeholders must work together.

The one area that was raised time and again by speakers was the work mobile network operators need to do more to help protect their subscribers. SIM farms are responsible for facilitating much of the fraudulent message misery that pervades but it is not just the operators who too readily provide access to SIM cards which power the farms at fault – those operators managing the inbound side of things, traffic to their subscribers can and could do far more.

It’s most definitely not just doom and gloom though. Although there certainly is plenty left still to do, and we are most definitely not out of the woods yet, operators are starting to change their mindsets. Governments are coming to terms with the role they have to play in educating their citizens about the risks out there too.

Educating the wider ecosystem about all the issues out there that can destroy the customer’s experience and furthermore, profoundly impact them on so many levels, is critical. This is something we at MEF take very seriously with our A2P Code of Conduct and Fraud Framework initiatives. Stay posted for the latest versions of those coming out at the end of January.

James Williams

Director of Programmes, MEF

  

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