Regulators and Experts Unite at the 2024 Telecom Fraud Symposium

Earlier this month, at the virtual 2024 Telecom Fraud Symposium, telecom leaders, regulatory authorities and industry experts gathered to talk about the latest, greatest, most pressing issues and technologies in the world of telecom fraud prevention. From regulation to law enforcement to AI and beyond, this year’s event covered a broad range of conversational ground, culminating in a discussion of an entirely new framework for ensuring trust in telecom. 

Hosted by Joel Bernstein, Somos’ VP of Regulatory and Public Policy, the event began with a conversation with representatives from the two most important agency regulators in the US telecom world — Kristi Thornton, Deputy Division Chief at the FCC, and Christopher Brown, Attorney in the Division of Marketing Practices in the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.  

Telecom Fraud Symposium

The panelists discussed their respective agencies' efforts in combating robocalls, robotexts and fraud. Kristi highlighted the diverse responsibilities of the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, which include call and text blocking, broadband information, and AI-related issues. She also described the robocall mitigation task force's role in coordinating efforts across the FCC. Christopher elaborated on the FTC's work to stop unfair, deceptive, and fraudulent business practices, particularly in telemarketing. He emphasized the importance of cooperation with state agencies, illustrated by successful operations like Operation Stop Spam Calls. Both experts agreed on the need for ongoing regulation and technological innovation to protect consumers, including recent FCC rules on robotexting and FTC measures against impersonation fraud. 

Telecom Fraud Symposium

The next session panel, hosted by Justen Davis, Senior Director of Industry Relations and Public Policy at Somos, featured esteemed panelists discussing international efforts to combat communication-based fraud. Elizabeth Greenberg, Chair of the Numbering and Networks Working Group, Jacquelynn Ruff from Wiley Rein LLP, and James Williams, Vice President of Business Development for XConnect, shared insights into regulatory and industry initiatives across different regions. Elizabeth detailed the collaborative efforts within the European Communications Committee and the importance of disrupting fraud rather than aiming for eradication. Jacquelynn highlighted the global nature of the crisis and the importance of international cooperation, while James discussed the cultural nuances and challenges in telecom fraud, stressing the need for cross-border collaboration and self-regulation to stay ahead of fraudsters. The conversation hearkened to the complexity of the issue, and the necessity for ongoing education and technological innovation in addressing communication fraud globally. 

Telecom Fraud Symposium

Following the international panel, the event welcomed Agent Kevin Gallagher from the FBI’s Criminal Division, Complex Financial Crime, for a presentation on the evolving landscape of financial crimes. Agent Gallagher educated attendees on the surge in cyber-enabled fraud such as tech support scams and government impersonation, predominantly originating from areas like India and Southeast Asia. With losses in the billions annually, the FBI's approach includes leveraging international partnerships and its legal attaché program to collaborate with local law enforcement. Agent Gallagher touched on the FBI's proactive strategies, including recent successes in disrupting international scam networks through coordinated operations and enhanced legal cooperation, aiming to mitigate the devastating impact of these crimes on global victims. 

Telecom Fraud Symposium

Next came a session focused on AI's impact on telecom fraud prevention. Lead by Kyle Belcher, Senior Product Manager of Somos, featuring Rebecca Jones, President of Mosaicx, Mike Rudolph, CTO of YouMail, and Brad Reaves, Associate Professor at North Carolina State University, this panel highlighted key advancements and challenges with AI. Rebecca spoke on AI's role in enhancing customer interactions through conversational AI, noting its application in improving customer satisfaction and operational efficiency across various sectors. Mike discussed AI's evolving role in fraud prevention, highlighting the use of generative AI by bad actors in phishing campaigns, leveraging it for contextualization, impersonation, communication, and exploitation phases. According to Brad, AI has transformative potential in fraud detection, thanks to its ability to analyze and respond to fraud attempts swiftly, thereby mitigating risks. The panelists also touched on the importance of collaboration between academia, industry and government to stay ahead of emerging fraud tactics, underscoring ongoing research efforts in AI-driven security innovations. They concluded by discussing future challenges and opportunities as AI continues to reshape telecom and fraud prevention landscapes. 

The day’s final session, led by Jamie Zetterstrom, Somos’ VP, Product Management, delved into critical aspects of telecom trust and regulation, anchored by perspectives from industry leaders in the financial industry and telecom experts, including Micah Semon from PNC, Guy Pearson from Bank of America, Chris Wendt from Somos, and Mark Bilton-Smith from ATLaaS. Discussions highlighted regulatory frameworks like on-going robocall proceedings, addressing invalid numbers and spam texts, and TCPA regulations necessitating disconnected number checks. The panelists from Bank of America, PNC, and ATLaaS underscored the pervasive challenge of caller ID spoofing eroding consumer trust. They advocated for a unified trust framework, leveraging technologies like STIR/SHAKEN for authenticated caller verification, aiming to restore confidence and combat fraud effectively.  

Across the entirety of the 2024 Telecom Fraud Symposium, one key theme was evident: collaboration among stakeholders is essential to effectively combat telecom fraud. 


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