As 2G and 3G networks are sunsetting, operators are accelerating the transition to 5G and VoLTE roaming services to leverage the high levels of virtualisation and lower operational costs. Data Roaming Fraud
However, the highly virtualised nature of 5G networks is creating more opportunities for fraudsters to deploy their attacks; leaving operator networks open to emerging fraud tactics over 5G networks.
Types of Roaming Fraud
Due to the complexities involved in roaming services, as well as vulnerabilities within the system, with fraudulent attacks going undetected or unresolved, there are numerous ways in which fraudsters can deploy such attacks. These types of roaming fraud typically take place over voice, SMS, IoT and data roaming.
Impact of Roaming Fraud on the Subscriber
In addition to the negative influence of roaming fraud on operators, there are several negative effects that roaming fraud can have on the subscriber, as follows:
• Financial losses: Whilst operators lose roaming revenue from fraudulent callers, subscribers can also experience significant financial loss. Fraudsters may utilise the subscribers’ roaming services in an unauthorized manner whereby, illegitimate calls are made to expensive locations as well as using data services without consent. The consequence of this is that subscribers will end up with major charges from activity that is unbeknownst to them. Without evidence of this
fraudulent attack, subscribers may be expected to foot the bill, thus suffering financial losses.
• Time and resources resolving: For both the subscriber and operator, resolving roaming fraud attacks can be time-consuming and costly. In some cases, the issue may not be resolved not only costing the subscriber time but also financial and reputational damage, if the subscriber cannot prove the activity on their accounts is fraudulent.
• Identity theft: A fraudster can steal a SIM or gain access to a subscriber’s personal information in order to act as the subscriber whilst accessing their personal information. This can damage the subscriber’s reputation in terms of credit history, in turn, damaging the relationships between subscriber and service provider. Additionally, this may lead to further financial losses if the fraudster makes unwarranted purchases from the subscriber’s account.
• Legitimate callers blocked: In an attempt to block and minimise the number of unwanted fraudulent callers, legitimate numbers may become blocked in the process. This creates issues for the subscriber, business and service providers if legitimate calls from trusted sources remain unanswered or blocked. In some extreme cases, this can lead to users not receiving important calls from sources such as follow-up appointments or waiting for medical results; becoming
5G Roaming Agreements Necessitate Novel Fraud Mitigation
As bilateral 5G roaming agreements proliferate, the research predicts operators will deploy more sophisticated fraud mitigation tools. The greater amount of data that 5G roaming connections generate will require the development of solutions that can detect fraudulent users and traffic over new 5G networks as they evolve. An example is the rise in 5G subscription fraud, whereby fraudsters create new subscriptions with false information; incurring roaming charges without intending to pay. Until the subscription is canceled, fraudsters will continue anonymously using 5G roaming data, with operators losing potential roaming revenue.
Research author Rosie O’Connor stated: “Operators must implement 5G-specific signalling detection and firewalls that offer real-time monitoring and ID-registry analysis. Only then, can operators more efficiently identify subscription fraud across 100 million 5G roaming connections predicted globally in 2024.”
Fraud mitigation services will alert operators of any potentially fraudulent activity across 5G networks in real-time and enable them to identify and block suspicious roaming subscribers. This will enable operators to minimise fraudulent activity, and therefore reduce the impact on their roaming revenue.