Everyone has a unique voice, in the same way that everyone has a unique fingerprint – and it can’t be forged.
However, it can be compromised, and there has been a recent rise in fraudulent activities affecting contact centres.
In fact, research by Pindrop Labs shows that one in every 491 calls to a retail contact centre is fraudulent.

“Customer service is more important than anything in a business,” says Ebrahim Dinat, chief operating officer at South African customer experience solutions provider, Ocular Technologies. “This includes protecting your customer from fraud.”

The recent case of a KwaZulu-Natal based occupational therapist brought this type of fraud to the forefront in South Africa when she discovered incorrect debit orders on her bank statements.

A call mandate was all that the company required for her money to be debited – and, yes, the company received and recorded this call they received. However, it was from a person with a radically different voice and accent to the victim.

“When most of us call a contact centre, after a few simple identity-based questions such as name, address and date of birth, we are given complete freedom over our account. Unfortunately, the same goes for a fraudster able to correctly answer the same questions, with many of the answers freely available on the Internet,” explains reporter Nick Ismail, reporter for Information Age.

“Telephone fraud also represents a low-risk, low-cost method for perpetrators, that is easy to carry out from anywhere thanks to the growth of VoIP networks.

“The rudimentary technology-based security that can sometimes be in place such as caller ID and automatic number identification can also be easily fooled using simple spoofing technology, making the chances of being caught extremely low.

“For this reason it is estimated that between 30% and 50% percent of all fraud incidents are initiated with a phone call, meaning telephone agents in contact centres are particularly vulnerable to social engineering and manipulation.

“Furthermore, the average contact centre agent will only be dealing with a fraudster once in approximately every 2 000 calls, meaning that identifying and handling them is not a core competency for most.”

Dinat says that the KwaZulu-Natal call fraud is certainly not an isolated case in South Africa. “For this reason, a technology that’s currently booming and that we’ll be seeing much more of to combat call fraud is voice biometrics.”

An example of new technology is Pindrop’s Phoneprinting technology that creates an “audio fingerprint” of each call by analysing over 1 380 unique call features, such as voice, location, background noise, number history and call type. It highlights unusual activity, identifies potential fraud and deters fraudulent callers. It cracks down on fraudulent tactics like caller ID spoofing, voice distortion and social engineering with no need for customers to provide any additional information.

According to leading industry analyst firm, Forrester Research: “As users increasingly demand frictionless authentication everywhere, biometrics solutions have garnered significant attention for both authentication and fraud prevention – especially on mobile and IoT devices. Furthermore, as their adoption increases, they will hasten the demise of the industry’s least user-friendly method – passwords.”

Dinat adds: “Naturally, voice biometrics greatly impacts customer service. The quicker a customer is authenticated and verified the more efficient is their journey. Precious time is saved through immediate and correct identification. At the same time, both customer and contact centre agents will no longer be targets for fraudsters, and the devastating consequences of wrong actions trustingly taken.”