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COVID affected voice fraudsters, but it didn’t set them back

COVID affected voice fraudsters, but it didn’t set them back

Overwhelmed interactive voice response systems last year forced fraudsters to be more efficient when trying to plunder companies, particularly financial institutions, according to a new report.

The thieves did not break a sweat adapting, however. Contact center agents globally saw fraudulent calls fall from one in every 770 to one in 1,074. But the report indicates that call centers for financial institutions saw more attacks in 2020.

Voice biometrics provider Pindrop says criminals chose quality of target over quantity as the coronavirus and its many follow-on disruptions pushed hold times 11 minutes longer from January 2020 to December.

Many fraudsters abandoned social engineering across a broad range of target industries to perform more-detailed target reconnaissance where more of the money is: financial institutions.

They searched for bigger payoffs to make up for fewer completed attacks per day, according to the company’s report.

They bought more stolen data from dark web caches and scraped social media biometric and demographic information before enlisting AI data mining to crack PINs to access interactive voice response apps. There, the attackers performed more research, seeking account balances, transaction lists, transfer statuses and the like.

By the time they ran into an automated attendant or even a human, the fraudsters often had enough information to sound genuine. So armed, they were able to take over accounts, says Pindrop.

They also used opportunities presented by government and business efforts to support commerce through rolling COVID-19 lockdowns.

Pre-paid card fraud increased, for example, according to the report. Criminal rings have gotten the cards, used by many sources including banks and unemployment agencies. They transfer the funds to a new account, report the card stolen and a charge-back is issued to the fraudulent card holder.

As COVID lockdowns swept the world, Pindrop CEO Vijay Balasubramanian spoke to Biometric Update about the increases in voice biometrics adoption and call volumes they prompted.

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