Identity theft is on the rise. According to TransUnion, every minute 19 people fall victim to fraud. Targeting anything from banking to mobile phone accounts, prying thieves are becoming more sophisticated when it comes to stealing identities and turning a profit.
The wider impact is substantial, says Amit Desai, senior director of solutions marketing at Verint-Systems. He adds that, just recently, Financial Fraud Action UK found that the cost of telephone banking fraud rose 95% to £14,4-million in the first half of 2015, compared with the same period of the year before
“The contact centre remains a key focal point of vulnerability here. However, the contact centre is also a vital engine of customer satisfaction and loyalty. When it comes to providing a positive and memorable experience, consumers value speed and convenience above all else. A study of customer service we commissioned in association with Ovum recently found that 81% of consumers just want their questions answered and, on average, almost half feel that companies that deal with their requests quickly deliver a better experience than those that don’t.
“It feels like executives need to strike an impossible balance – between engendering customer loyalty on the one hand, and guaranteeing the security of their data on the other. Businesses need to work harder to combat the potentially crippling impact of fraud, without compromising on the customer experience. Not only do such cases damage business reputation, they face hefty fines if found in breach of customer data and security regulations. But in the bid to fight fraud and accurately identify customers, what’s the alternative to Guess Who-style questioning.
“The answer is definitely not more security measures; instead, organisations need to make better use of existing touchpoints to make security smarter,” says Desai.

‘Dualing’ against fraud
Desai says the human voice is a uniquely powerful identifier – though it is not secret, like a password, it is truly unique to each individual and almost impossible to forge. Significant advances in voice biometrics have drastically increased the accuracy of analysing and identifying voice signatures in real time, slashing call times and saving businesses tens of millions in eliminated fraud loses. Moreover, the new generation of voice biometrics operates ‘passively’ and recognises a caller’s voice without requiring them to speak a passphrase.
“The introduction of a dual approach to voice authentication, as well as the growing sophistication of the technologies, has further helped streamline and strengthen these systems. This involves two almost identical technologies that work in tandem to keep customers happy, while also fighting fraud.
“On the one hand, the customer authentication application holds ‘voiceprints’ for each customer, analysing the current caller against these previous signatures. Most of the time, this will allow the customer to be quickly authenticated, reducing the frustrating experience of having to reel off reams of facts about their past. The accuracy of this method of authentication is high – comparing one voiceprint to a database of similar voiceprints is straightforward.
“Sophisticated systems will continue to build on their original voiceprints for each customer, creating an increasingly diverse identifier that allows quick authentication when the right customer calls,” he adds.
“The second string of the approach includes a fraud detection application that stores a database of voices of known fraudsters to recognise criminals on the phone before they’ve had a chance to act, even if they are able to provide the right password and to answer all the security questions. This system is comparing one voiceprint to potentially thousands of known criminals, so the chance of catching a criminal in the act aren’t as high as matching a customer to their voiceprint. But as the database grows, so does the chances of catching the felon red-handed.”

Moving beyond the passphrase
‘Passive’ voice biometrics is a frictionless approach, matching a caller’s voice to their stored voice print without asking them to speak a passphrase. At worst, this application doesn’t locate any matches, and the contact centre can revert back to the traditional security question; nothing is lost and the customer continues the verification process. But more often than not, the contact centre is in possession of a powerful weapon, able to catch known fraudsters in the act and stop their customers becoming victims of fraud.
According to Desai, this approach means all bases are covered when it comes to getting voice authentication right. “With these two processes layered on top of one another, a perfect balance is struck between streamlining the customer experience by authenticating the customer before they’re subjected to a barrage of security questions, as well as ensuring security. The technologies are also virtually ‘unspoofable’ – as the voice is essentially a vocal fingerprint; it’s incredibly difficult for a fraudster to fake a customer voice well enough to fool the authentication tools.
“There are factors that make legacy systems less successful, such as asking the user to say a certain phrase as a passcode, with these being more liable to customer pushback and frustration,” he says. “Not only this, but if the customer’s voice doesn’t match the database due to external factors such as a bad line, the contact centre has simply added a further step to an already frustrating identification process.
“Fortunately, as the technology has evolved, so have these dated systems. Newer generation platforms are quickly replacing the need for any pass phrase, in turn making the technology adoptable by consumers.”

Good cop, bad cop
Desai says as voice authentication gets smarter, so do the criminals trying to break in. Criminals understand that it’s quicker and more efficient to buy card details from the dark web, rather than hacking through endless layers of security. The downside to buying customer details through this untraceable source is that the criminal has all the details, but no way of knowing how much money they have available to them in the account.
“This is where things start to get interesting. Fraudsters have on many occasions been known to pose as the customer and call into contact centres and ask how much money is in the account. In the past, contact centres have been giving the information away freely, allowing the fraudster to spend the correct amount of money. Now, using voice biometric technology, the contact centre can recognise known fraudster voices on even innocuous-sounding calls for balance inquiry.
“Upon recognition, the contact centre can alert the customer and fraud departments to shut down accounts before any money has been stolen, stepping in as a front line fraud detection employee before any fraud has taken place.
“To beat these threats, businesses need to step up and embrace the new technologies that are available to them. Voice biometrics is a weapon that organisations can use to battle and eliminate fraud, and maintain credibility. Alongside this, businesses can be champions of customer service, ensuring they get their customers queries answered quickly. It’s a win-win situation…for everyone except the fraudsters,” Desai adds.