Stopping Mobile Fraud at the Roaming Gateway

Filed in Fraud Management, Roaming by on November 14, 2014 0 Comments

Roaming_Fraud-ThumbnailRoaming fraud looks a lot like other kinds of mobile fraud. It’s exploited by illegally obtained SIM cards, it’s a launch pad for premium rate and international revenue share fraud, and it’s vulnerable to identity theft and masking.

So why then should you care about roaming fraud in particular? Isn’t your fraud management system already scanning for international revenue-share fraud, bypass and identify theft?

Well, unfortunately, your fraud management system is only as good as its end-to-end process visibility and its promptness in receiving vital traffic and usage data. The act of roaming delays and disrupts the normal flow of fraud management activity. While the advent of near-real-time roaming data exchange accelerates information sharing, in some cases it can still take 30 days to get usage records from your roaming partner. What’s more, the roaming domain is sufficiently complex and requires a special expertise – especially in the realm of LTE.

Actually, lumping mobile fraud in the same category as international revenue-share fraud and SIM box bypass can be a bit misleading. Roaming is more properly a gateway or entry point to the full range of mobile fraud threats. And your biggest priority, of course, is to ensure that this gateway is properly managed and cleansed – and done so in a timely fashion and on a worldwide basis.

To get a more granular understanding of fraud at the roaming gateway, Syniverse sampled fraud activity across a portion of its customer base during a five-month period. In that time, its roaming fraud protection team identified more than $14 million in potential fraud across 140 different countries and 300 private mobile networks, which affected over 9,000 unique IMSIs (international mobile subscriber identities). In total, some 35 distinct types of fraud attack were identified and blocked.

Clearly, then, roaming gateway fraud is a serious issue. So what should you do about it? Here are my recommendations:

  • Find the holes in your umbrella. Determine where gaps exist in your current fraud management system’s coverage of the roaming gateway.
  • Think globally. Assess your ability to understand patterns of fraud happening in different parts of the world and apply this knowledge to your roaming business.
  • Detect accurately. Since international roaming is often charged at a premium, it’s vital to detect roaming fraud accurately and reduce the “false positives” that lower profits and cause major customer experience issues.
  • Assess your readiness for LTE. New networks add new levels of complexity, and LTE brings dramatic change to roaming. Are you ready for these changes?
  • Consider third-party solutions. Managed-service options are available to help operators large and small. It’s a proven way to stay on top of new types and patterns of fraud.

Fraud control at the roaming gateway is about maintaining a watertight wall of protection between you and the fraudsters. It requires considerable diligence, domain expertise, and global fraud experience to detect the leaks and keep the wall patched, but that’s the price of safeguarding precious revenue.

So what about your organization’s approach to roaming fraud prevention? Do you have any advice or lessons learned that you’d like to share?

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About the Author ()

Dan Baker is Research Director of Technology Research Institute (, an analyst firm that has been following telecom software markets since 1994. Dan also is editor of two telecom industry blogazines: Black Swan Telecom Journal and Telexchange Journal. Over 19 years, he has authored dozens of syndicated reports on billing, assurance, and OSS topics. The most recent report he authored is a 574-page study titled “The Telecom Analytics & Big Data Solutions Market.”

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