October 14th 2014

Could you afford a £70,000 bill this week?

Toll Fraud (also known as telecommunications fraud or phone hacking) is a growing threat to businesses whose phone systems are exposed to fraudsters. A false sense of security originating from the fact that phones are supposed to work upon dedicated lines means that Toll Fraud is not often discussed. However, hackers and phone ‘phreak’ experts are incredibly dedicated to breaching the security of phone service providers. And the real salt in the wound? Businesses that are hacked are almost always liable for the call charges.

So what exactly is Toll Fraud?

Toll fraud is somewhat of an elephant in the room for most companies. It’s the process of a hacker gaining unauthorised access to the use of a company’s phone system, and it is estimated to be generating over £1.5 billion for sophisticated fraudsters. There are different types of toll fraudsters that all have different agendas for hacking, but the result is always the same: a whopping bill for your company.

There’s The Internet Geeks, that will usually attack larger companies because they have some kind of personal grievance with them. The Internet Geeks hack into companies telephone systems with the sole intention of creating large call costs, and no interest in personal gain for themselves.

The worst kind of toll fraud is committed by organised crime members. The criminals hack into systems in the same way as The Internet Geek, but with only one goal in mind: making money. Once they have found their way into your system, the fraudsters can sell phone cards for international destinations at discounted rates. This earns the fraudsters lots of money whilst you end up with the bill.

Toll fraud can also be committed internally by staff members who need an easy (and free!) way to make calls to premium rate numbers. This type of fraud doesn’t involve any direct hacking, it is more of an opportunistic crime. But it could still leave your company with a hefty bill at the end of the month.

The reason Toll Fraud normally goes unnoticed for so long is because the companies fraudsters attack usually have quite large phone bills anyway, and are not vigilant enough when checking their bills. Many companies have now implemented safeguards that manage the threats in realtime. Whilst this sounds like a good idea it is not putting a lid on toll fraud because these hackers are smart. Hackers usually strike after hours or on weekends and bank holidays when immediate detection is unlikely. It is definitely worth scanning your company phone bill to ensure that no outgoing calls have been made at times when you are closed.

Cick here to listen to a useful BBC radio broadcast on the subject.

What are the consequences for your company?

Unfortunately there is only one party who is liable for the cost of these fraudulent calls, and that is you. Ofcom have ruled that the owner of the equipment that has been hacked is liable for the cost of the calls. This is why it is vital that you have every measure in place to prevent your telephone system from being hacked. As previously mentioned, larger companies with an already substantial phone bill may not notice toll fraud for many months, but for a small company the effects will be much more deadly. If you are a small business owner and are not protecting yourself from toll fraud you are taking the risk of receiving brutal consequences from toll fraudsters. The costs that hackers can tally up, even in a matter of hours, could be enough to close most small businesses for good. It takes us back to the question asked at the start of this blog post: Could you afford a £70,000 bill this week?

It’s also important to note that although this article has mainly focused on the financial consequences, it’s not just about the money! If your phone lines become taken over by hackers you could lose communication with your customers and that is where the serious threat to your business occurs.

How can you prevent this from happening?

Statistics prove that a total or 84% of UK businesses are not safe from hacking. The truth is, toll fraud will not go away until everyone protects themselves. It’s just too easy for fraudsters to hack into the thousands of unsecured phone providers.

Here at Lloyds IP we suggest that you give your telephone system maintainer and your network provider a call to see where you stand, and if you have been attacked.

After you have done this (or before), feel free to contact us to discuss toll fraud in more depth and also get a demonstration of our Fraud Indication Alerts. We’ll talk you through how they work, and how quick and easy it is to set them up. Here at Lloyds IP, we protect our customers for as little as £2 per month, and give completely FREE advice to anyone who seeks it.

Lloyds IP want fraud to STOP.

Thanks for reading.