Preventing the dreaded ‘Likely Scam’ label
Chris Botting, chief product officer and general manager at IntelePeer describes how reputation management can enable legitimate enterprises to continue phone communication despite increased calling fraud.
Since 2021, fraudsters have made the worst out of an already bad situation. The pandemic opened the flood gates for swindlers, giving them new opportunities to deceive and steal. In October 2021 alone, there were 4.1 billion robocalls placed. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US received 383,598 phone fraud reports, with 31% of those incidents initiated by the con men and women.
For just these occurrences, the FTC discovered that the total loss to consumers was $436 million (€383.96 million), with a median loss of $1,170 (€1,030.35). Although the FTC doesn’t update its information frequently, its future 2021 findings are sure to be just as telling as those from 2020.
It is this high, fraud-rich environment honest enterprises find themselves competing against today. Whether determining which audience to target, verifying times to call, or developing the scripts for their agents to read, companies will spend US$275 billion (€242.18 billion) worldwide on mobile advertising in 2021.
Nevertheless, legitimate calls get blocked and mislabeled as ‘scam’ or ‘fraud’ by top carriers. While done with good intentions the ultimate consequences for inaccurately tagged calls are severe for companies. Because scams and fraudulent calls affect nearly every mobile subscriber, organisations must find a solution to prevent their calls from getting mislabeled.
Just how bad is it to have legitimate calls marked as fraud?
The top carriers base their labeling on a broad range of categories. Each carrier uses different labels, and with 85% of people believing that an unknown number makes a business appear illegitimate, the price of getting mislabeled is equally damaging to a business’s reputation. Ultimately, the labels indicate to the consumer the call’s potential fraudulence – it is up to them to choose to answer. For example, T-Mobile & Metro PCS mark suspicious calls as ‘Scam Likely.’
With as much as 94% of unknown calls going unanswered, business results are declining. From sales and productivity to customer satisfaction and cash flows, various areas across organisations are negatively affected. Industries like finance, healthcare, and retail have all reported significant drops in marketing and sales ROI. Even more unfortunate is that voice traffic also rose significantly during the pandemic as consumers quickly revealed that they preferred voice over all other channels.
Moreover, since customers are hesitant to answer unknown calls, clients miss appointments, accounts aren’t updated, and subscriptions go unrenewed. Most concerning is that many businesses have no idea that their calls are getting blocked. Due to the diversity of anti-spam and caller ID technologies employed by consumers, 56% of companies cannot verify if their calls have gotten tagged as spam. For healthcare organisations and retail, this percentage is even higher at 84%, and 71% respectively.
Why do legitimate calls get labeled as fraud in the first place?
The major carriers intent is to protect consumers. Carriers use algorithms that measure ‘risk’ ratings based on Multiple data points including perception. The higher the ‘risk’ rating, the stricter ‘warning’ language. Interestingly, this process is not because of the STIR/SHAKEN framework – it is due to the call’s own negative reputation. Even if a company’s carrier is STIR/SHAKEN compliant, calls can still get blocked solely on the grounds of poor reputation. Unfortunately, the solutions that were created to help consumers wade through the tide of robocalling, had unintended consequences. Since these algorithms aren’t fool proof, legitimate calls are getting caught in the cross-fire.
So, what exactly are the carrier’s algorithms looking for? There are several factors:
- High or aggressive call volume,
- Inconsistent traffic patterns,
- Multiple calls to the same person within a short period,
- Honeypot traps,
- Crowd sourced feedback, and more
Bear in mind, these algorithms are highly subjective and do not intentionally target one business over another. Often discrepancies arise between networks; seemingly random mislabeling for perfectly normal calls is also not out of the question. Furthermore, customer complaints can lead to inappropriate labeling, and robocallers spoofing an enterprise’s caller ID can also result in unfair tagging.
Mitigating risks with reputation management
For businesses to decrease the likelihood of carriers blocking legitimate calls, they must apply the principles of reputation management to their calling approach. Reputation management is the process of monitoring public brand perception, responding proactively to threats, and seizing opportunities to boost reputation. Successful reputation management helps increase sales by avoiding what customers don’t want and capitalising on what they actually want.
Chiefly, businesses conducting outbound calling should identify themselves to the analytics ecosystem as a verified business. Although it is critical, completing the registration process can be very time-consuming and laborious. Businesses must contact each phone carrier and analytic engine individually to verify and register their phone numbers and continue to do so on an ongoing basis. Experts also recommend proactively monitoring phone numbers.
Likewise, companies should work to diversify the numbers they use. Utilising a single number for all calling purposes is like “putting all your eggs in one basket”; any negative reputation triggered by calls for any single calling purpose can jeopardise all of the calls.
Similarly, using only one phone number for a variety of call types can come across as suspicious. Organisations can avoid getting mislabeled by leveraging different numbers for separate calling intentions. Spikes in illegal robocalling have also caused analytics engines to search for abrupt changes in call patterns or the frequent swapping of numbers – typical calling behaviours used by bad actors. Therefore, businesses should maintain consistency, less they get confused for a fraudster and have their calls mislabeled.
Finding an ideal reputation management solution
Even though enterprises should implement their own reputation management efforts, various companies offer reputation management solutions. However, not all reputation management solutions are created equal, and businesses should research when selecting a partner.
A key requirement of any top solution includes compliance with all three leading analytic engines – so that an enterprise wouldn’t have to obtain and integrate different solutions for each component. Other features that should be top of mind for any business include a solution equipped with full visibility and on-demand analytics of call reputation and performance. A reputation management solution will also provide one source for ongoing control, help establish a verified calling identity and allow businesses to connect with even more customers with higher answer rates.
With consumers more anxious than ever before, organisations must earn their trust. A reputation management solution will protect numbers from being mislabeled as scam, spam or fraud, while simultaneously restoring trust something sorely lacking today.
The author is Chris Botting, chief product officer and general manager at IntelePeer.