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Written by: Laura Fitzgerald

Head of Brand and Digital Experience

Phone scams have evolved considerably in the past few years, especially as malicious actors have begun to incorporate new technologies into their scams. 

Today, phone scams are a lot more advanced than ever before, and it’s pertinent for call center agents and for organizations to understand how they work. In this post, we are going to go over all the details to help you understand how phone scams work, and what you can do to protect your business.

The Anatomy of a Phone Scam

Phone scams are generally elaborate, and are usually laid out in several key stages, each designed to manipulate and deceive the target into complying with the scammer’s requests. Understanding these stages can help in identifying and preventing such scams.

1. Preparation

Scammers start by gathering information about their targets. This can involve collecting data from social media, public records, or previous data breaches. The more they know about their target, the more convincing they can be.

2. Initial Contact

The scam begins with a phone call. Scammers often use caller ID spoofing to make it appear as though they are calling from a legitimate or familiar number. 

This technique increases the likelihood that the target will answer the call and trust the caller.

3. Building Credibility

Once the call is answered, the scammer works to build credibility. They may impersonate a representative from a well-known organization and use the information they have gathered to sound convincing. The aim is to establish trust and authority.

4. Presenting an Opportunity

The scammer then presents a problem that requires immediate attention (like unpaid taxes or a compromised bank account) or an enticing opportunity (such as winning a lottery or a special investment offer). This creates urgency or excitement, clouding the target’s judgment.

5. Demanding Action

Now, this is when the scam really goes into motion. The scammer will ask the target to take specific action, whether it involves asking for their personal details or banking information. 

6. Pressure Tactics

As you can expect, most people tend to resist. They get suspicious and choose not to provide the information that scammers require. To ensure compliance, scammers often use high-pressure tactics. 

They might threaten legal action, financial penalties, or other negative consequences. Alternatively, they may create a sense of urgency or scarcity around an opportunity to rush the target into acting without thinking.

How Scammers Target Contact Centers – An Example

WIth advanced technologies like deepfakes available, scammers often target contact centers as well. In a typical scenario, a scammer might target a call center of a financial institution. They use gathered information about a particular customer to impersonate them. 

Armed with enough details (perhaps obtained from a previous data breach), they can sound convincing enough to pass the initial security checks.

The scammer may then create a narrative, such as urgently needing to transfer funds due to an emergency or wanting to update contact information or passwords. 

By mimicking the customer’s mannerisms and using their personal information, the scammer can fool the call center agent into believing they are the legitimate account holder.

Once they gain access, they can execute fraudulent transactions, change account details to lock out the actual customer, or gather even more information for future scams.

This type of scam exploits the call center’s focus on customer service and efficiency, sometimes at the expense of rigorous security verification.

And, as you can probably imagine, this creates a nightmare scenario for contact centers in general. Because contact centers are heavily regulated, any breach of customer confidentiality or information creates not only a goodwill problem, but exposes the contact center to heavy litigation. 

How Contact Centers Can Protect Themselves

There are several steps that contact centers can take to protect themselves against such issues. Here are a few.

Leveraging Advanced Voice Authentication Technologies

Implementing sophisticated voice biometric systems is crucial. These systems analyze unique characteristics of a caller’s voice, such as tone, pitch, and speech patterns. 

They are effective in distinguishing between a legitimate caller and a fraudster, even when the latter uses advanced voice manipulation or deepfake audio.

Anomaly Detection Through AI and Machine Learning

Utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can help in detecting anomalies in voice patterns. 

These technologies can learn from vast amounts of data and identify subtle irregularities that might indicate a fraudulent call, such as minor inconsistencies in voice modulation that are not typical of the genuine caller.

Caller Verification Procedures

Beyond voice biometrics, implementing strict caller verification procedures is essential. This may involve multi-factor authentication processes, where callers are required to provide additional information or verification codes sent via different communication channels.

Creating an Incident Response Plan

Analyzing the network and technical properties of calls can provide clues about their authenticity. 

This includes examining the origin of the call, call quality, and any signs of voice tampering or spoofing. Technologies that analyze these aspects can flag suspicious calls for further investigation.

Protect Your Call Center with Pindrop

Pindrop is an industry-leading voice authentication solution that allows contact centers to authenticate callers using passive voice biometrics. Pindrop’s advanced voice authentication solution not only helps contact centers protect against scammers, but also helps improve overall performance in the call centers while simultaneously enhancing the contact center experience for callers. Request a demo today to learn more!