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Artificially Inflated Traffic (AIT) – Fraudulent Traffic

Artificial Inflation of Traffic (AIT) also known as Fraudulent Traffic and Fraud Traffic 

Telecom related fraud can be extremely complex to understand, particularly when two activities, such as Artificial Inflation of Traffic and Dial Through Fraud, are sometimes so similar. As a starting point, we have tried to clarify some of the questions you may have. However, please remember that it is not the carriers or FranzCom’s responsibility to monitor, manage or prevent fraudulent activity from being carried across any customer’s platform or systems.  FranzCom and the carriers will work with you and assist where possible, but it is your ultimate responsibility to manage and detect fraud on your account as you are generating the sales.

What is Artificial Inflation of Traffic (AIT)?

AIT takes place over revenue call share numbers (where terminating operator receives a share of the billed revenue) short codes and premium numbers which have a cost to the end-user. In the case of AIT, the information provider operating the service aims to inflate the traffic for financial gain.

This increase in traffic can be in the form of spam messages, missed calls encouraging people to call a number or text a short code, exploiting a gap in billing systems, not informing users of the price, or sending more billing messages than was permitted.

AIT can also occur when prepaid mobile handsets are offered at a reduced rate by operators to consumers. This has created a grey market, where carrier subsidised handsets are re-sold overseas for a profit. To combat this, carriers now require an initial top up at the point of purchase to raise the price and reduce the margin made. By transferring this top-up back to the purchaser via a premium service, the operator goes into loss, which they can guard against under their AIT legislation.

What is Dial Through Fraud (DTF), more recently known as Bluejacking or Modem Fraud?

Traditionally this referred to exploiting a facility offered on most private branch exchanges (“PBX”, also known as switchboards or voicemail systems  “VM”). If necessary for work purposes, company employees can ring into the PBX or VM and, by keying certain dialling codes, access an outside line to call anywhere in the world. The company is then charged for these outgoing calls.

More recently, adaptations of this refers to hacking a USB internet “dongle” modem connected to a laptop or computer, or hacking into a users phone via their bluetooth connection and exploiting that to send messages to a premium shortcode.

Also there has been an increase in using stolen credit cards to top up prepaid phones, and stolen identities with contract phones to exploit shortcodes and premium numbers via the available balance.

What happens when AIT is identified?

When AIT is identified your account will be flagged for review and you will be asked to provide evidence that your traffic is genuine. During this time all revenue will be withheld.

Provide any evidence you can that your service is genuine, e.g. publication invoices, copies of specific publications containing your advertisement or contracts with publishers (proving that your advert was placed and in the public domain when your traffic was generated).

It can be many months after the traffic was generated that AIT is identified. With some of these methods fraud is performed without the users knowing a message has been sent, so it is discovered when they check their bill.

If the AIT is confirmed the revenue generated is withheld or you will be asked to re-pay, if it has already been paid.

Typically with the latter DTF AIT it is isolated to a range of specific MSISDNs the carriers identify, so just that money can be withheld or clawed back by the carriers.

Preventing AIT

~ Promotions

Typically you will be asked for a copy of the promotions that were used to generate the traffic. They will try to find any evidence in the advertising of the service that explains the level/pattern of calling. If your clients are generating sales, are you checking that their service is genuine?

~ Regulatory Breaches

Look for possible breaches i.e. has there been a failure to provide pricing information? Has a breach resulted in excessive amounts per day / month?

~  Authenticate Users

Consider implementing a username system, where to partake in your service, they have to be registered and text in a unique identifier in the message. Not only can this help you to identify the origin of the fraud, it makes the effort involved to defraud your system more substantial.

~ Detect Self Generated Traffic

Is there a pattern to suggest that the messages/calls could be originating from a single calling party? Is there reasonable suspicion that the calls have been originated by a party connected to the service which profits from the operation of that service? Is there a reasonable suspicion of a pattern of calling which appears constructed to exploit billing technology or credit card fraud, i.e. messages come from sequential numbers or in rapid succession.

As a rule, if the traffic you generate is legitimate, then it will never be flagged for review in the first place. If it is flagged, then use it as an opportunity to implement measures to prevent fraud in the future. If you need any assistance, we are most happy to work pro-actively with you to keep AIT out of your service.

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