South African and global telecommunications companies and mobile network operators spend millions when securing their services and their customers’ personal information.

Despite these efforts, however, the Communications Fraud Control Association reveals in its 2019 Global Telecom Fraud Survey, that fraud losses has continued to increase by 37%, with a financial implication of R469-billion.

The most common instance of mobile fraud takes place at the contractual sign up process. Paper-based systems and a weak digital authentication approach for RICA requirements significantly expose telecommunications services to human error, collusion, and fraud.

Gur Geva co-CEO of iiDENTIFii, says: “The telco operator has no way of knowing whether the client they are onboarding via phone or PC is actually who they claim to be. If they are a fake, this leaves authentic businesses or individuals vulnerable to identity theft and related fraudulent activities. Once the service contract is in place, the fraudster has access to facilities like mobile banking and payments.”

Geva adds that South African companies need a significant mindset change. Fraudsters are not just opportunists but professionals who work a regular day on the wrong side of the law.

He emphasises: “They wake up at 6:00 and work a 14 hours day just like we do, but with criminal motives.”

The second most common type of mobile fraud is SIM swapping. This can be done either at the beginning of a contract or by porting a number through to another network. Again, there is no concrete security solution in place to ensure that the person on the end of the line is who they say they are.

Not only is your authentic customer at risk, but the mobile network, banking services and certain online shopping facilities (which, according to Forrester is one third of all retail sales totalling R16,5-trillion) are at risk too.

Biometric facial recognition technology that links back to the Department of Home Affairs offers the telco industry the necessary level of identity verification including proof of life, facial verification as well as the customer’s criminal status, says Geva.

“This means that mobile service providers can rest assured that through a seamless authentication process that takes less than 30 seconds, their customer base is made up of genuine citizens, thus mitigating fraud.”