Wangiri Fraud: A Light at the End of the Tunnel

There was some hue and cry recently on Kenyan social media, caused by a wangiri fraud attack originating from number ranges traceable to Congo and Lithuania. The twitter feed was lit up.

“Who else is getting missed calls from Congo?”
“I received a missed call at 2am”
“My wife had missed calls at midnight”
“I don’t even know anybody in Lithuania!”
“A couple of calls today”

Wangiri fraud is not new and subscribers seem to be (generally) aware that it is a scam. Some warned their countrymen against returning such calls.

“It is a scam. You will lose airtime!”

This attack reminded me of the RAG Wangiri Blockchain initiative. This innovative approach, in its trial phase already persuaded 35 telcos and vendors to exchange data. They share the numbers used for fraud and the data is downloadable by any of the members instantly. It is driven by the understanding that efficiency in sharing information puts us all one step ahead of the fraudsters and, ultimately, helps us protect the customers better. During the recent RAG Delhi event, the blockchain consortium announced the transition from trial to production phase. The sign-up process will be even easier than as it was during the trial phase.

In December 2019, Commsrisk reported that Subex, a leading Indian vendor, announced that it would be connecting the Subex ROC Fraud Management System to the RAG Wangiri Blockchain, thus transparently ensuring that Subex clients worldwide would have access to the common global knowledge base of wangiri intelligence without leaving the FMS. As Head of RAFM previously, I hated having to perform updates to hotlists. I would be glad if somebody offered me such a neat way of ensuring my fraud systems are up to date without my needing to make any effort, especially if the intelligence is sourced, secured and validated from hundreds of reputable sources. I would go so far as to say that if my FMS vendor is not participating in such an initiative, I would want a very convincing explanation for not going this way. What’s more, I would certainly want assurance that my vendor is offering a much superior way of handling this threat.

It would be interesting to see how many African telcos will sign up to the wangiri blockchain. If we do not collaborate in such industry-wide initiatives, we are ultimately choosing to leave our customers to fend for themselves. As a Kenyan mobile customer, I would feel much better knowing that my telco is part of such efforts, or uses a fraud management system hooked into such a network.

I really hate being woken up at night by missed calls from places that I cannot locate on the map.

Joseph Nderitu
Joseph Nderitu
Joseph Nderitu is a director at Integrated Risk Services Ltd and specializes in revenue assurance. He previously worked as Head of Revenue Assurance and Fraud Management at Vodacom's operation in Tanzania, having previously served in the same role at Vodacom Mozambique.

Before his work with Vodacom, Joseph was an internal audit manager for Airtel, with responsibility that covered their 17 countries in Africa. Whilst at Airtel, Joseph led reviews of the Revenue Assurance, Customer Service and Sales & Marketing functions.

Prior to his stint at Airtel, Joseph was an RA manager at Safaricom in Kenya. He holds an MSc Degree in Information Systems.