Phone fraud picks up dramatically in first half of 2012

By | August 03, 2012

Posted in: Network Security Trends

Phone fraud is on the rise, but the numbers while significant in a raw sort of way are still very small. While phone fraud increased a whopping 29% in the first six months of 2012, compared to the last six months of 2011, the numbers were relatively small, around 1,300,000 compared with about a million. However, the number bears watching over the coming months, to see if the number continues to increase or levels off.

The fraud covered in this report includes vishing (targeted scams), caller ID spoofing, forwarding attacks, SIM spoofing, and toll fraud. The number are either legitimately purchased or spoofed.

Big banks are the primary means of spoofing. Calls purport to come from nine of the top 10 banks and 34 of the top 50 banks either had their name invoked in the spoofed call or were impersonated by callers.

Interestingly, there was zero growth in fraud among the top five banks. There were modest increases in the other categories, particularly among the top 50. Banks with a focus on credit card processing were particularly susceptible to phone fraud, indicating a focus on that vulnerable market.

VoIP continued to lead the way, with 46% of all fraudulent calls. However, that’s down significantly as a percentage, from 57% during the last six months of 2011. Cell phones, primarily from Verizon, reflecting the popularity of the service, were next. While cell phones accounts for only 14%, that was up significantly in the first six months of 2012, over just 5% the previous six months. This represents a shift from VoIP to cell.

Google Voice leads VoIP phones in fraud, probably because of the large number of subscribers. Ease of use of Google Voice a along with the ability to automate functions, do batch orders, pick numbers and access an API benefit fraudsters as well.

Los Angeles was the fraudulent calling capital in the first six months of 2012, with just under 10,000 calls. New York with just over 4,000, Chicago with just under 4,000, followed by Dallas and Phoenix were next.

What does it all mean? In sheer numbers it’s just an annoying but growing pinprick, as fraudsters push for new ways to defraud people. We vulnerable in a thousand ways, and our phones are just one more way of reaching out and falling prey to hucksters.

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