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More calls, more crimes: New tools to stop fraud in the call center

More calls, more crimes: New tools to stop fraud in the call center

This is a guest post by Mark Horne, CMO of Pindrop

The bad news: Cybercriminals work from home too. The worse news: They’re good at it. And this year, they’ve realized that call centers, their interactive voice recognition (IVR) systems, and their customer support agents are especially vulnerable today. Most businesses and financial institutions that operate call centers have, by necessity, gone remote. Call center agents who once sat next to colleagues and within a few dozen feet of their supervisors now work in ad-hoc home offices. The mechanics of remote work are challenging enough in normal times, but 2020 has seen major upticks in both customer calls and fraud attempts.

New stresses on call center agents

A recent Forrester survey of financial services firms and insurance companies offers some sobering statistics. The surveyed firms have recorded an average 42% year-over-year increase in call volume. On one level, these terrible numbers are not surprising, given the havoc coronavirus has wreaked on financial lives and the millions who have had to seek new insurance, but they show just how daunting a challenge call center operators face. And the challenges of pandemic operation mean you can’t solve the problem just by hiring and training new employees: 76% of surveyed institutions said they’d had to devise and implement new call center policies to deal with the increase in call volume.

Risks to automated systems

Two-thirds of respondents report seeing new forms of fraud since the advent of the coronavirus; 57% report they’ve seen more fraud this year, and 53% say that the wave of fraud has affected their bottom lines. Just a third of surveyed businesses felt they had call center fraud under control. In a conventional office, agents may have in-house tools that are difficult to replicate at home; they also have instant, in-person access to peers and colleagues who can advise them. Furthermore, if agents are on high alert for fraud, customer experience may suffer as agents are forced to treat honest callers as suspicious. But it’s not primarily agent performance that has managers worried: 78% say that fraud in IVR systems is the biggest problem they face today. Fraudsters usually can’t directly take over an account through the IVR, but they can exploit IVR weaknesses to gain the knowledge they need for future thefts.

Just as proper training gives call center agents the tools they need to identify bad actors, IVR systems can be improved through artificial intelligence and machine learning. Biometric indicators can be used to detect “vishing;” spoofed phone numbers and device identifiers can also be caught. Real-time monitoring of IVR interactions can flag possible and probable fraud attempts to call center agents and others in the institution to improve cross-channel collaboration. Especially in this time of remote work and decentralized offices, it’s vital that relevant information be shared across institutions.

Looking to the future

2021 looks to be the year of the coronavirus vaccine. Offices will reopen, work from home desks will be packed away, highways will jam with work-bound commuters, and call center volume will drop. The digital criminal element, however, will remain much as it ever has; fraudsters will continue to seek out weaknesses and exploit institutions’ protocols. They’ve developed new cons and tricks during the pandemic; institutions bear the responsibility of stopping them. Centralized in a building or spread out in dozens of home offices, call centers, and their systems will still be major targets for criminal ingenuity. Make an investment in the future — and stop the grifters in their tracks. It may not be easy, but it will be better for your operations, better for your customers, and better for your bottom line.

About the author

Mark Horne is the Chief Marketing Officer at Pindrop. He has led high-performing organizations across the B2B cloud, software, and technology landscape. Horne has a B.S. in Marketing and Entrepreneurship at Northeastern University in Boston, an MBA from Georgia State, and is an Executive Scholar at Kellog School of Management.

DISCLAIMER: Biometric Update’s Industry Insights are submitted content. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Biometric Update.

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