Wangiri: one ring, millions of fraud victims

Wangiri: one ring, millions of fraud victims


Your mobile phone suddenly starts to ring, but stops almost as quickly – and before you’ve managed to answer the call. You don’t recognise the number; do you call back, intrigued? Or hope they’ll contact you again?

Those who take the first option are increasingly finding themselves falling victim to ‘Wangiri’. Meaning ‘one ring’ in Japanese, the scam involves prompting the recipient to return the call, which then connects to an international number. This can incur significant connection fees, in addition to victims being charged a high price-per-minute whilst on the call.

Where are you calling from?

Many of us will ignore an international phone number we don’t recognise, but others, unaware of international and regional dialling codes, will return the call without a second thought. Scammers are also using more advanced tactics which include hiding the incoming call number on the recipient’s phone display. Or, as in a recent case in Belgium, duping recipients into thinking the call has originated locally – in this case, criminals used numbers which started with the Belgian dialling code.

Unfortunately, Wangiri is one of the most common types of telecoms fraud, a criminal industry which costs the telecoms sector an estimated $29 billion a year. Wangiri is not confined to certain regions; it can affect any country and any network, globally, and as result, the number of cases has increased more than 300% in the last few years. This has been aided by the growing ease with which fraudsters can generate missed call campaigns (cloud communications platforms, UCaaS, and CPaaS, for example, provide the perfect vehicles). The increase in frequency of the scam prompted the FCC to release an alert to consumers, warning them not to call back unknown numbers, and offering a means of reporting any incidents to the Commission.

Wangiri is also being used as a method of fuelling traffic to fraudulent numbers around the world, contributing to one of the most prevalent – and lucrative – fraud types: International Revenue Share Fraud (IRSF). This scheme alone costs the telecoms industry up to an estimated $6.1 billion annually, making it critical that operators work together to tackle the pressing threat.

Crowdsourcing and collaboration

Sharing knowledge and occurrences of any type of telecoms fraud is an important means of tackling a threat which, although impossible to completely stamp out, can at least be protected against. We advocate a similar approach at BICS, using a combination of fraud prevention and authentication services, powered by a global anti-fraud crowdsourcing platform.

The crowdsourcing platform utilises BICS’ holistic and unrivalled view into live global international telecoms traffic from more than 2,500 partners surpassing voice, SMS, signalling, roaming and cloud communications, enabling the rapid detection of new anomalous traffic in any part of the world. This database is further enriched by actionable intelligence, such as 55 million confirmed fraud numbers around the world from 450,000 fraud incidents.

This intelligence is utilised by BICS’ FraudGuard Suite of services, which demonstrates the need for – and value of – a proactive approach to tackling telecoms fraud. We’ve already blocked more than 850 million fraudulent call attempts, minimising revenue loss and ensuring a consistent, high-quality subscriber experience. A large proportion of the call attempts were due to Wangiri, which were blocked even before they reached the intended subscribers.

BICS’ FraudGuard recently enabled a Tier 1 North American operator to proactively block close to 1 million Wangiri attempts made on its subscriber base, in a single month. Over the last year, the solution has also allowed a major African operator to proactively block close to 6.5 million Wangiri attempts on its subscriber base.

By allowing users to share fraud data and trends, BICS is advocating a collaborative, industry-wide approach to fraud. We’re also part of key industry bodies in which we work alongside other leaders in the sector, to share insights and collaborate on strategic topics that are critical to the future of the industry. BICS’ CEO Chairs the GLF Fraud Working Group (part of ITW Global Leaders’ Forum), for example, which last year launched a landmark report which exposed the extent of the damage telecoms fraud is causing to the telecoms sector.

Global protection

As well as our FraudGuard service for voice – a key tool in reducing the frequency of Wangiri scams and other international communication fraud types globally – BICS also offers SMS and Voice Roaming Firewall solutions, which provide real-time signalling-based fraud protection. Operators get greater control over the roaming traffic on their networks (compared to the traditional approach of Near Real Time Roaming Data Exchange file monitoring), as well as confidence that their roaming and messaging environment is fraud-free and optimised for generating revenue and cutting costs. Subscribers, meanwhile, no longer have to put up with annoying unsolicited SMS, which can persuade recipients to make calls to premium-priced numbers, be used to install malware on their device, or utilised for phishing scams.

The FCC’s alert will hopefully help spread the word in the consumer market about the danger and impact of Wangiri. It’ll be very difficult to totally eradicate the practice, but by offering a full-armour defence of advanced anti-fraud solutions and managed services, and by promoting global collaboration and transparency, BICS will continue to lead the charge against Wangiri and telecoms fraud.


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