Tackling Port-out Fraud to Protect Digital Identities With Intelligent Number Portability Data

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In today's world, consumers take for granted the ability to easily switch phone service between carriers while retaining their existing phone numbers. Known as number portability, this practice is now common in numerous countries worldwide, although it wasn’t always the case.

Regarded as good for consumers and good for the market, it has also become a potential gateway for fraudsters seeking to exploit insufficiently secure porting processes for illegal monetary gain, aka port-out fraud. 

Fortunately, solutions are now available that enable businesses, including banks and other financial service providers, as well as the Communication Services Providers (CSPs) serving them, to verify the validity of ported numbers in real-time to circumvent possible scams. 

Number Portability Grows from Early Beginnings to Widespread Use

The concept of number portability came on the scene in the late 1980s to early 1990s as mobile phones were emerging. Prior to this, phone numbers were tied to a specific landline or mobile carrier, making it difficult for consumers to switch providers without having to change their phone numbers. This lack of portability was a major barrier to competition and innovation across the telecom industry.

During this era, a few countries began experimenting with number portability, and its adoption quickly caught on. Its use has grown by leaps and bounds over the last three decades, and it is now implemented in 110+ countries and territories around the world. The onset of number portability has greatly increased competition, particularly in the mobile industry, as it allows consumers to easily switch providers to take advantage of better deals, coverage or services.

While widely recognized as an important innovation, number portability has also created some pain points for CSPs and other members of the telecom ecosystem, notably in the fight against communications fraud. As mentioned previously, cybercriminals attempt to exploit weak porting processes or social engineer the victims in order to take control of phone numbers, a growing issue that has resulted in recent action by the U.S. Federal Communications Communication (FCC). 

On July 11th, the FCC unveiled a set of proposed rules specifically targeting port-out fraud and SIM swapping. If approved by the full commission, the rules would require wireless providers to adopt secure customer authentication methods before redirecting a phone number to a new device or carrier. It also proposes requiring providers to notify customers whenever a SIM change or port request is made on customers’ accounts. 

How Fraudsters Try to Capitalize on Number Portability 

The delivery of one-time passwords over SMS for account registration or two-factor authentication has become a common practice and, unfortunately, has created a new set of security vulnerabilities. A typical scenario happens when fraudsters exploit weak processes and port a phone number to receive the SMS or Text-To-Speech One-Time Passwords of the real owner, and then they use this information to take over their online accounts.

Phone number intelligence data services can safeguard against this practice through mechanisms that determine if a phone number has been ported from one service provider to another.

Banks and credit card companies have learned that recent porting activity is a significant indicator of potentially fraudulent transactions. With the knowledge provided by phone number intelligence data, this signal can be evaluated in the overall risk assessment process.

Financial institutions aren’t the only ones that can benefit from this information. Any web or mobile service can enhance its account verification and two-factor authentication processes by flagging new user account requests and password recovery attempts as potentially fraudulent when a freshly ported phone number is involved.

How NumeriView Addresses Your Number Portability Needs

More than 20 years ago, netnumber Global Data Services began integrating all the data sets for number portability, enabling fast, reliable access to number portability data across the globe. Today, the company’s NumeriView solution provides best-in-class portability-corrected data enabling customers to accurately determine when phone numbers are ported and to ensure that such numbers aren’t used for malicious activities. Underlying NumeriView’s robust capabilities is netnumber GDS’ world-leading phone number intelligence data, which forms the basis of its market-leading real-time number data and routing solutions. With access to these robust data sets and netnumber GDS’ unique ability to vet and validate phone number insights, customers can certify that their messages and voice calls will always reach the correct carrier and subscriber.

To learn more about NumeriView, click here.