How To Prevent Toll Fraud

Rito Salomone
 


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Toll fraud, misuse and long distance abuse are the unauthorized use of telephone services. and deliberate or improper use of the corporate communication facilities for toll calls.

Theft of authorization codes to use or sell to others has become a major concern with universities, health care and major corporations. Toll fraud ranges from people who think they can make a few free calls, to sophisticated call-sell operations that rack up thousands of dollars of long distance. Once stolen, codes can be rapidly distributed across the Internet to other hackers.

Some hackers have even programmed PBXs, voice mail systems, ACDs and other communication equipment remotely. They find tunnels into your system, access secret passwords, reconfigure personal mail boxes and manipulate sensitive data. Hackers can rework long distance routing tables for convenient access from even a pay phone. Thousands of calls may be made on a compromised system long before a customer receives a bill highlighting the abuse. In the United States, it is estimated that five billion dollars per year is lost to toll fraud.

Call accounting software is often employed to track excessive toll fraud and can act as the system watchdog. Reports from the software can highlight the fingerprints of abuse. These reports can be presented in court when pursuing felony charges.

VoIP applications are especially vulnerable to toll fraud because they form an integral part of the IP network unlike regularly monitored PBX systems managed by separate groups. The most effective way of combating such fraud is having strong encryption policies in place. The communication logs should also be constantly monitored using VoIP-ready call accounting software that alerts administrators of suspicious calling activity.

Recent events have placed a spotlight on corporate espionage, terrorism and heightened security. My corporations now realize the importance of detecting toll fraud, misuse and abuse for their survival. Most CEOs are demanding tools to thwart negligence and theft while tightening network security.

There are many warning signs of possible breach in a communication network. The obvious impact to the bottom line is the excessive cost of long distance calls. This type of abuse is often discovered and traced to individuals using a good call accounting system. Calling to specific international destinations, specialty service numbers (e. g. 900, 976 adult services), chat lines and entertainment services can be highlighted with frequently called number reports.

Internal call tracking can be crucial in large organizations that experience harassment calls. Often calls of this nature can be attributed to disgruntled employees or jealous former partners. Many telephone systems have the ability to track extension to extension or internal calls. Bomb threats or calls to emergency services can bring an institution to its knees. Many PBXs have a call trace feature that can identify the source and qualify the call.

Misuse calling can often be corrected by diligently highlighting inaccurate facility usage and better personnel training. These types of calls are not malicious in intent but do carry a costly price tag (e. g. directory assistance).

Unusual activity can be difficult to pinpoint but proactive telecom managers will employ techniques to trap peculiar patterns. Periods of unusual call surges, after hours calling, long calls to local numbers and repeated incoming calls can fall under the radar. These calls do not necessarily appear on a telephone invoice but can greatly impact productivity.

RSI is recognized as an industry leader in the field of communication management. The communication management product portfolio includes tailored integration to the most popular switching and network manufactures. RSI has been granted Nortel Developer Partner status with recognition for its core portfolio as Compatible Products. RSI is a Cisco Technology Partner, Siemens HiPath Ready Standard certified, Avaya DeveloperConnect Member, Mitel MiSN Member, Adtran Complementary Solutions Provider, NEC Univerge Partner and Alcatel Applications Partner.

Rito Salomone is President of Resource Software International Ltd. (RSI). RSI is internationally recognized as a leader in communication management solutions. To contact the author, email rsalomone@telecost.com or visit the website at http://www.telecost.com

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