Over the last quarter, COVID-19 and all, telecom fraud continues to be a noticeable issue in the industry. It is a problem with business and personal phones, and with both TFTP (toll free traffic pumping) and robocalls.
We saw roughly 4% of all calls to our honeypot(A “honeypot” is a pool of numbers we use to attract, trace, and count TFTP calls.) being TFTP through the first 2 months of Q1. As we entered the last month of the quarter, nearing spring, we saw that traffic climb heavily and since then consistently be around 8% (double!) of the honeypot calls. April was an exception, with an average of 11.5% of all calls being TFTP, which fits the seasonal trends we have historically seen. Those seasonal trends being up in the spring, down in the summer, up in the fall and down again near the end of the holiday season. As for the type of calls we are seeing, the campaigns continue to be the same in Silent, Static and Background (anything from running water to construction sites to cafeteria noise).
More interesting though, TFTP seems to be completely unaffected by the current Pandemic like other types of telecom fraud have been. We, along with the rest of the industry, saw a major drop off in robocalls when the US and the rest of the world was put on lockdown, across business and personal numbers. We no longer were receiving personal calls or getting complaints of Extended Vehicle Warranty or Your google local listing only being 75% complete. For a fair amount of time into the pandemic, it stayed that way.
Unfortunately, as the global economy starts to open back up and we try to regain a sense of normalcy, the robocalls enter back into the market as well, showing us all just how normal they have become. But the toll free traffic pumpers of the world were the one thing that didn’t change during this. They continued to fly under the radar, keeping their traffic trends the same as the business traffic trends. They didn’t ramp up and take advantage of many call centers and desk phones not answering and being able to keep the call up for 30, 60, 90 minutes. They simply kept in line with what they have always done.
The good news in all of this is we have made significant progress in the last 2 months, specifically in the TFTP Traceback Taskforce group that Invoca has run for the last 4 years. We cannot share specifics as we are still hard at work putting a foolproof case together. But we have finally broken through the next barrier and made it further upstream, identifying a consistent small group of “Carriers” that the majority of the traffic is tracing back to. We hope to be able to share some really exciting news later in the year on this.
As for robocalls, the industry is still battling those and working tirelessly to get STIR/SHAKEN(Interconnected call authentication framework to help combat robo/fraudulent calls) implemented across the network. Invoca has personally spent the last month with all of our carriers, outside counsel, and other vendors offering STIR/SHAKEN attestation (call signing/grading) solutions in order to best prepare for the industry implementation and best serve our customers with calls they want and deserve. We have yet to conduct testing with any of our vendors but it is tentatively on the Q3 roadmap with the hopes that we will be ready to receive and pass signed calls to our customers by the end of 2020.