200+ million fraud related call attempts stopped in 2020

Interview with Sr. Product Manager – Fraud Solutions: Endre Syvertsen

Telenor Global Services stopped over 200 million call attempts, with an estimated value above 30 million USD in 2020. Telenor has implemented a zero-fraud tolerance towards the fraudsters. Why is it important to have a strong focus on fraud prevention?

Fraud increases – new technologies offer opportunities on a general basis and Corona in specific has affected the industry. At the same time Telenor has seen a significant reduction of ‘’successful’’ attacks from the fraudsters. Have fraudsters realized that they cannot succeed in our networks and gone elsewhere?

Some recent reports estimate that the annual turnover on fraud is above 40 billion USD worldwide. Wangiri fraud is very common and an effective way for fraudsters to trick end users. The user receives a missed call, usually from an international number. When trying to call back, they are connected to the premium rate number of the fraudsters and heavily charged. Callers are being tricked to hold the line as long as possible, e.g. with pre-recorded messages.

It is important to Telenor to act as a trusted partner. To secure that all calls going through our network are legit. In Telenor Global Services, we have therefore implemented a fraud protection system and internal routines. Having the traffic visible, means that we can stop it before it reaches the end users.


How has the fight against fraud changed since you took an active role to prevent scam calls?

We have learnt that fighting fraud has two main objectives. The first is to stop unwanted traffic. The second is to be able to stop the payment towards the fraudsters. Both are equally important.

In order to stop unwanted voice traffic, we have developed our own Fraud portal in cooperation with Utel Systems. Visibility is key to detect fraudulent traffic and that is exactly what the STINGA portal from Utel Systems does. Once you can detect, you are able to stop. As for now, we are mostly working with voice traffic, yet later this year more services will be added onto the portal. The solution enables us to detect and react as to stop fraudulent traffic. With a zero tolerance policy, the actions are easy to implement.

If the fraudsters are getting paid for their actions, they will continue with their activity. We are treating payments related to fraud the same way, independent of the size of the fraud activity. We have succeeded in stopping all fraud payments and receiving credit notes from our partners during 2020, meaning we are entering 2021 with zero (!) fraud disputes.

So, the biggest change is that we have secured our ability to both detect and stop wangiri and other unwanted calls early when they occur in our systems and to stop payments related to fraud incidents.


Moving into the new future of IoT, 5G, etc. – How do you think the industry should respond to fraud?

We know that fraudsters are adjusting their strategies and developing new skills to continue gaining money also from new services if they have the possibility.

If we are transparent with each other and share knowledge and learnings – this will be key for the telecom industry to fight fraud. The more we know, learn and adjust, the more difficult we make it for the fraudsters to find ways to operate. The only way to keep it under control is by close cooperation with our partners to prevent fraud as best as we can.

Further, there is a need for building a common platform for fraud detection with all our partners. Telenor Global Services has already started: we will continue to enrich our partner STINGA portal from Utel Systems with more services and enroll more partners to the portal for the years ahead.

Finally, our zero-fraud tolerance sends a clear message: We will not be part of facilitating international crime.