What better way to wrap up our journey down the Path to Powerful Conversations than with two highly anticipated breakout sessions? This year’s breakout sessions focused on two of the hottest topics being talked about in the Toll-Free Industry – Toll-Free fraud prevention and blockchain. Check out everything you missed from today’s sessions:
Toll-Free fraud is a very real problem that threatens the Toll-Free industry. In this panel, leading figures in the fraud-fighting community joined each other in a discussion around what some common scams look like and what the industry is doing to try to prevent fraud on Toll-Free.
The discussion was kicked off by Sheri Givens of United Utilities Against Scams (UUAS). UUAS was formed in 2016 as an association of utility providers united in the fight against scammers. This group, which includes over 120 utility member companies, works diligently to educate the public about what some common scams look like and what you should do if you are contacted by a scammer.
The next panelist, Catherine Palcic of Somos, discussed some of the successes UUAS and Somos have had to date when it comes to Toll-Free fraud prevention. Catherine works closely with UUAS, the FCC, tech companies, Somos’ VP of Regulatory and Public Policy Joel Bernstein, and many more to help prevent and shut down Toll-Free scammers. To date, over 4,700 Toll-Free Numbers attached to scams have been shut down, over 2,200 of which were numbers specifically targeting utility companies.
The conversation next turned to Paige Yamashita of Southern California Edison (SCE), a utility company that has been hit themselves by Toll-Free scammers. Paige noted that one difficult thing about catching scammers is that they don’t usually follow a single path – all different types of utility companies are being targeted with a range of scams and scare tactics. In an effort to combat fraud, SCE has worked diligently to launch a full range of awareness campaigns from online marketing to direct mail to billboards and advertisements. So far, they have been successful in shutting down over 1,000 numbers – both Toll-Free Numbers and traditional 10-digit numbers.
The last panelist was Mark Rubin of Inteliquent. As a Product Director, he has an intimate, vested interest in seeing that bad actors are shut down and that scammers are not using Toll-Free Numbers that are being reserved by Inteliquent. He has definitely made it a personal goal of his and admitted to taking pride in taking down fraudulent Toll-Free Numbers. Along with others in the industry, he has been working diligently to combat fraud. Some things that were noted that can be done to help in the fight against Toll-Free fraud include: being on the look-out for suspicious customers and red flag behaviors; doing due-diligence and pre-screening potential customers, especially those looking to reserve Toll-Free Numbers in bulk; and making sure to instantly cut off numbers that engage in fraudulent activity.
According to Naveen Suri, VP of Global Customer Engagement at TM Forum, blockchain “could very well be a revolution.” During the final breakout session of the day, “Blockchain, The Latest Emerging Trend,” Suri walked attendees through how blockchain works and how the telecommunication industry might adopt the technology in the future.
So what exactly IS blockchain? In the simplest of terms, blockchain is “a distributed ledger technology which allows any participant in the business network to see the system record (ledger) securely.” In other words, blockchain eliminates any central authority in a transaction, thus creating a more transparent and secure system. Suri says to consider the use case of buying a house. Traditionally, each relevant member—you, the bank, the seller—ends up with a record of the deed. Through a blockchain system, each participant has the same, cryptographically secured record.
When you generate a transaction, such as a lease, the information is stored chronologically on a block. Each member of the transaction validates the information for it to be stored in the block. This block then joins others, forming a chain. With blockchain, everyone can see all the information related to that transaction. Suri believes that this transparent and secure process will allow blockchain to become the next major equalizer.
Already, Suri says telecoms—among many other industries and markets—are investing in blockchain technology. As 5G and the Internet of Things make ecosystems more complex, Suri believes that many will turn to a blockchain network. He believes new business models will create a value economy that service providers could take advantage of. He also foresees blockchain being put to work in uses cases such as digital identity as a service, prevention of phone theft and mobile number portability.
Bitcoin may or may not be a passing phase, but Suri says blockchain is here to stay. Applications and use cases are being developed now and services providers need to be ready.
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