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In a recent webinar, Michael Becker, MEF Future of Messaging Adviser, was joined by Bradley Greer, Senior Director, Data Solutions & Partnerships at netnumber, to discuss brand impersonation and other forms of messaging fraud and how recently unveiled solutions can help members of the U.S. telecom ecosystem shore up their defences. Here Bradley outlines his key takeaways from the discussion.

Brand impersonation is a particularly heinous form of messaging fraud that seeks to exploit consumer trust by hijacking recognized business phone numbers to perpetrate theft and other illegal activities.

Telecom providers, financial institutions and other business enterprises are well aware of this growing problem and have implemented various anti-fraud measures. But more still needs to be done to rein in this troubling trend.

Fortunately, new tools are emerging in the U.S. Messaging Ecosystem to further curb this damaging and costly activity.

Fraudsters are Highly Organized and Sophisticated

In a typical scenario, fraudsters may target phone numbers trusted by a customer base, such as a call center or emergency number used to report a stolen credit card. Unsuspecting victims receive a text message from the hijacked number and believe they are engaging with real brand representatives and are persuaded to divulge account passwords and other sensitive information, make purchases or transfer money. Banks and other financial services are primary targets in these schemes due to the potential for stealing money, but other business types are also exploited.

Part of the underlying problem lies in the complexity of the telecommunications industry itself. On the path from the message originator, for instance, the business seeking to reach their customers, phone numbers go through numerous changes across a vast number of carrier and network databases and registries before reaching the end user.

In a typical scenario, fraudsters may target phone numbers trusted by a customer base, such as a call center or emergency number used to report a stolen credit card. Unsuspecting victims receive a text message from the hijacked number and believe they are engaging with real brand representatives and are persuaded to divulge account passwords and other sensitive information, make purchases or transfer money.

During this complicated journey, with its many transmission handoffs, keeping track of and ensuring a phone number’s validity can become a challenging task for system participants.

New Tools Use Real-Time Alerts to Combat Fraud

As the telecommunications ecosystem continues to wrestle with brand impersonation and other messaging fraud, netnumber, an expert in phone number data intelligence, has launched two new solutions to boost anti-fraud measures. The services give U.S telecom providers, brands, financial institutions and other netnumber customers real-time phone number alerts and monitoring to mitigate text messaging fraud.

Known as Number Lock and Number Watch, the solutions are offered through the netnumber Services Registry (nnSR), an industry registry launched and managed by netnumber and a critical piece of the U.S. message routing infrastructure.

How Number Lock Strengthens Security

Number Lock increases security for business enterprises by restricting text messaging on customer-specified 10-digit non-mobile numbers upon the request of the subscriber to the number. This enables enterprises to secure their brand and prevent fraudsters from using well-known business phone numbers via text messaging to gain a victim’s trust.

Customers will also receive regular reports on text-enablement requests for their numbers. In addition, the service supports Do Not Originate requirements, which help enterprises inform the industry of their non-text-enabled phone numbers.

Number Watch Provides Real-Time Alerts to Suspicious Activities

Number Watch is a companion solution to Number Lock that provides comprehensive phone number monitoring for telecom providers, financial institutions and enterprises. Number Watch stores customer-specified phone numbers on a watchlist continually monitored for a wide range of events and activities by netnumber.

If any of the monitored events are observed on watchlist phone numbers, the customer is informed immediately via REST API. Using this information, Number Watch customers can determine if the flagged activities are legitimate (e.g., a valid number type or carrier change) or illegitimate (e.g., attempted fraudulent use) and act accordingly.

Essentially, the new services flag customers to suspicious activities in their system, said netnumber’s Brad Greer. “We’re saying, ‘Look, this phone number could be potentially targeted to commit some sort of fraud.’ This enables the provider to take immediate action to determine the best path forward, whether that’s choosing not to interact with the number or investigating its status further.”

The two new services are part of netnumber’s continuing efforts to provide creative and novel ways to undercut communications fraudsters in order to protect customers, partners and the industry as a whole.

Bradley Greer

Senior Director of Data Solutions & Partnerships, netnumber

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