International Number Range Management and Fraud Prevention

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When people are asked to list some hot topics in telecoms risk management, international number range management is unlikely to be top of the list. Stephen Ornadel of iconectiv freely admits that international number range management is ‘boring’, even though he is an expert on the topic. The practice of determining which international numbers customers should be allowed to call is complicated, tedious, and never-ending. The burden is magnified by some nations that frequently change their number ranges. However, number range management is also vital to preventing large-scale fraud. Steve came to the March meeting of the UK Revenue Assurance Group (RAG), and explained what his data tells us about dodgy numbers from various countries, and about strategies to prevent frauds before they can occur. Far from being bored, the RAG audience was amused by Steve’s anecdotes, impressed by his insights, and aghast at the scale of fraud identified in real life. If you know nothing about international number range management, you should listen to his talk. And even if you do know about it, then tell others to listen, because Steve uses hard data to make a compelling case for better number range management in every telco. I am very grateful to Steve, to iconectiv, and to RAG, for allowing Steve’s talk to be recorded and shared with a wider audience, via the talkRA podcast.

You can use your web browser to listen to this podcast, or download the mp3 file from here. And to be sure of never missing a future talkRA podcast, you can subscribe for free at the iTunes store.

For more information about international number range management, you may want to check out the relevant page on iconectiv’s website, or download their white paper on preventing fraud and revenue leakage (registration required).

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns

Eric is a recognized expert on communications risk and assurance. He was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and others.

 

Eric was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He was a founding member of Qatar’s National Committee for Internet Safety and the first leader of the TM Forum’s Enterprise Risk Management team. Eric currently sits on the committee of the Risk & Assurance Group, and is an editorial advisor to Black Swan. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.

 

Commsrisk is edited by Eric. Look here for more about Eric’s history as editor.

  • Mike Willett

    Thanks for posting this Eric and to Stephen for the talk.

    It would have been interesting to have raised the issue of the impact of “whole of country” blocking on countries. I was involved in IRSF in its very early days when the target was the Pacific Island countries. A lot of work was done by these countries to clean up the number ranges they had sold, when they did not fully know the intended purpose when they sold a number (or range). The impact on their economies by not being able to be contactable (by phone) was potentially disastrous, especially with a reliance on tourism. This then led the fraudsters to move to other locations around the globe but also number hijacking. The number hijacking is beyond the control of the “destination” operator but requires a level of collusion from a, typically unidentified, operator along the call path that will typically short stop the call to maximise revenue for all in the chain. Blocking without understanding this, can have a serious impact.

  • Thanks for the feedback Mike. That is a really good point and one I used to make some years ago but arguably things have moved on since then. The South Pacific did have a huge problem some years ago and arguably many of the operators there didn’t help themselves. True, some operators had their numbers unknowingly hijacked but other operators had knowingly leased their number ranges to other carriers.

    Eventually the economic harm was identified and they did clean up their act and in coordination with PITA exited the audiotext game. However, they no doubt learnt that once operators block a country it is a lot harder to get them to remove the block.

    Unfortunately the battle against hijacking is ongoing and my good friend Colin Yates is supporting a number of carriers in this particular battle. This fight is not eased by the fact that there is certainly one operator in the region that has publicly confirmed that they continue to lease their number to third parties.

    The iconectiv approach to this subject fully takes into the economic harm of blocking countries. We enable our customers to make detailed routing and blocking decisions and in particular, in this region the blocking of unallocated number ranges is very powerful. We never recommend blocking whole countries. Call gapping/throttling is equally as effective and allows legitimate call volumes to continue.

    IMHO this is a two sided problem. The originators of traffic need to be actively blocking unallocated number ranges, premium type number ranges and mobile type number ranges that are allocated to companies that are not even MNOs or MVNOs (think Latvia and UK as an example). The other side is that the terminating networks must exit the number range leasing business and they must take firm action when their ranges are “highjacked”. I expect any reasonable network to issue take-down notices against websites trading in their number ranges where there is no prior authorisation.