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Europol survey – Telecoms fraud is on the rise

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Europol, the European Union’s police agency, has published a report stating that telecoms fraud is costing over 29 billion Euros every year. The survey on cyber-telecom crime was conducted by Europol’s European cybercrime center (EC3) and cyber security specialist Trend Micro. This report underlines that telecom fraud is becoming a low-risk alternative to traditional financial crime, and due to the reduced cost and increased availability of hacking equipment, this type of fraud is on the rise.


According to Europol, the most common methods of telecom fraud are vishing, where people are persuaded to disclose personal details, Wangiri, where people are tricked into calling back to expensive numbers, and international revenue sharing fraud (IRSF) that is claimed to be “the most damaging fraud scheme to date”. Describing IRSF, Europol stated: “It involves transferring monetary value from one carrier to another, based on the inter-carrier trust between telecom operators. Patient fraudsters wait for the logs to expire before executing any further money laundering steps”.


Steven Wilson, head of the Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), said: “Telecommunications fraud is another example of criminals “hacking the system” in order to abuse legitimate enterprises for criminal gain. While this is not a new crime area, it does represent a new challenge for many law enforcement agencies throughout the European Union”.


Craig Gibson, principal threat defence architect at Trend Micro, said that telecommunications can be vulnerable, and its impact on our daily life is significant. “We trust that our phones will work, that we can work from home, that we can be paid through our ATM accounts, and that we can shop online. We tend not to think about what is under the covers of the unseen global network we rely on so much,” explained Gibson.


Taking into account the critical nature of telecom, threats to these essential systems must be explored and understood as telecom technology continues to flourish. Europol established EC3 in 2018, and has brought together more than 70 professionals from law enforcement and the telecoms industry with the aim of sharing intelligence, knowledge and experience, and developing and implementing techniques required to combat telecom fraud.

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