Computers have hackers. Phones have toll fraud. Yes, there are mean people out there who can hack into your VoIP system and use it to make ridiculously expensive calls.
Toll fraud has been going on ever since the invention of the telephone, and it reportedly sucks up nearly $5 billion a year – over double the annual cost of credit fraud.* Here’s how this tricky scam works – and how you can prevent it.
What Is Toll Fraud?
Toll fraud is when someone gains unauthorized access to your phone account. Usually, the hackers make a bunch of calls and run up your bill, but information theft can also be involved.
In the past, toll fraud was a little less sophisticated than it is nowadays. Analog phones use certain tones to process different calls; thieves would mimic these tones with equipment or even by whistling (!) in order to make long-distance calls.
With VoIP, you have to do a lot more than whistle to make free calls. Thieves can intercept signals sent when you call and copy your authentication information, which leads them right to your account. They can also hack into your computer system to get this information.
The Cost of Toll Fraud
If your account is hacked, the consequences can be dire. Company VoIP systems are designed to allow large numbers of calls to be made at once. If you have 10 open phone lines, a hacker could make 10 simultaneous phone calls to international destinations at a time (most toll fraud comes from outside of the US). This can run your bill up into the thousands very quickly, especially if international calling is not included in your plan.
Toll fraudsters can also use your VoIP system to get information about your company. Hacking a VoIP system can give thieves access to confidential voicemails, including client information. And, of course, the last thing you want is for your client information to be compromised.
How to Avoid Toll Fraud
Toll fraud sounds pretty nasty, right? Luckily, there are plenty of good ways to minimize your risk of falling prey to toll fraud. Sorry bad guys – no free calls here.
Pick a secure provider: The first step to securing your VoIP account is picking out a VoIP provider that takes security seriously. First off, you will want to look for a provider that encrypts call credentials during transfer so hackers cannot intercept and steal the information.
Another must-have feature is early and advanced detection. This is just like the monitoring that a credit card company conducts to help customers avoid fraud. Credit card companies monitor their customer’s normal spending patterns. If you are a frugal person and all of the sudden you run up $20,000 in charges at Betsy Johnson, your credit card company might automatically suspend your account and give you a call to see what is going on.
Similarly, a VoIP company with detection features will keep track of your usual calling patterns and may suspend your account if there is a sudden explosion of aberrant activity. There is a thin line to walk here, since you don’t want your VoIP provider shutting off your phones because of every little international call you make. However, the inconvenience is well worth the protection.
Secure your devices: Like other hackers, toll fraudsters can gain access to your account via unsecured or poorly protected computers or VoIP phones. Make sure that all of your company’s VoIP phones and computers are securely password-protected (and that your password isn’t password).
Act fast: If something makes you think that your VoIP account has been compromised, don’t wait. Contact your VoIP provider immediately and ask them to look into your account. If you are very suspicious, have them suspend your account while they conduct the check – just be sure to implement a backup phone system so your customers can reach you.
Toll fraud is a very real risk for VoIP, particularly because VoIP can handle so many calls at once. Good thing a few simple precautions can keep your VoIP account safe from toll fraud. Those fraudsters will have to pay for their own calls to mom.