When Robots Attack – An Enterprise Spam Call Defense Strategy

Written by Richard Quattrocchi on 1/14/19

Robocalls are not just for your cell phone anymore and are targeting your enterprise. The problem is growing in scope and intensity and is now to a point where it is hitting the enterprise bottom line, impacting personal productivity by digitally distracting knowledge workers, as well as disrupting revenue generation and customer service activities in contact center operations. Why is this happening and what can your organization do to stop it?

About a year ago, I was in the office and started hearing phones ringing. What was odd was that phones started ringing in the numerical order of the telephone number extension. First extension 69001, then 69002, then it was my turn. My phone rang, the Caller ID displayed a Washington D.C. area code. I answered. On the other end of the line, was a robocaller speaking Chinese!

I was simultaneously annoyed, amused and curious. What possible profit motive could there be for such an undertaking? Was it a denial of service attack on Mutare? That didn’t make sense. If that was the intent, why ring the numbers sequentially and stop? Was it a robo call scam to extort money? Maybe if it had been in English. No, this was something else altogether. This was far too transactional an event. A Chinese robo call. What was going on?

I asked my CTO, Roger Northrop about the Chinese robocall incident and he suggested we reach out to a colleague who has been a vocal advocate with the FCC against robocalls – David Frankel, CEO of ZipDX. David knew all about the scam and explained to us that the financial motivation was micro pennies in revenue sharing per call generated by Caller ID and Caller Name lookups. It turns out VOIP phone calls are so cheap, they cost virtually nothing to make. But operators who maintain the caller ID databases charge carriers to perform the Caller Name (CNAM) lookup.

That data in your display on your phone carries a charge that is micro pennies per call, but it is collected even if you don’t answer the phone. Robo call companies work with the database companies to collect the fees and share the revenue. VOIP providers and the carriers themselves also make money by charging for caller ID services and call blocking services. In the end, your company is paying the cost for lookups so robocalls are being funded by you!

There is an extensive investigative report authored by Joy Gumz, that digs into the financial incentives for robocall operations to continue their micro penny scams.  You can click on the preceding link to learn more.
Suffice it to say, the calls will keep coming. Unlike email with extensive spam filtering and rules, the telephone network was designed to complete calls, not block them. This can have dire consequences for your contact center. I recently had a meeting with a medical contact center manager. Their firm fell victim to robocalls that resulted in a 30% call abandonment rate. As a medical contact center, some of their revenue comes from customer satisfaction measures, one of which is call abandon rates. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service reimburses hospitals in part through Medicare and Medicaid patient satisfaction scores. When call abandonment rates go up, reimbursements go down impacting the bottom line directly. This can result in the loss of hundreds or even millions of dollars annually in reimbursements

So how do you defend against voice spam?

The answer is to filter voice calls to the enterprise. Mutare has created a 3-point strategy and software solutions to block spam calls, reduce interruptions and shelter contact centers from spam calls. The strategy is:

Personal Voice Message Blacklisting – This is available today as a standard feature in Mutare Voice™.  Callers from phone numbers that are blacklisted are diverted from being able to leave a message. Instead, they will hear an announcement stating the called party is not taking messages and the call is terminated. The blocked call is logged, but there is no notification to the called party ensuring the employee is not digitally disrupted by a spam notification.

Auto Attendant Blacklisting – This capability enables a system admin to blacklist any caller ID ringing into the enterprise and divert the call away from the contact center, department or individual without ringing an extension. The system can be extended to automatically block robocalls identified in a national crowd sourced database of robocallers. This optional robocall blocking works in conjunction with enterprise generated blacklists to minimize the number of spam calls into the enterprise. This capability will be generally available within Mutare Voice at the end of January of 2019 and is targeted to safeguard contact centers.

SIP Trunk Filtering – This capability uses an appliance to read the CallerID and CNAM data in the SIP diversion header without getting in the way of the call path. If the caller is on the blacklist or a known robocall, the call is diverted to a recording or simply dropped. This capability does not require an Auto Attendant front-end and will work for all trunks terminating into the enterprise exchange. The Mutare Voice spam filtering appliance will be available at the end of Q1 for enterprise deployment.

Voice spam is particularly difficult to root out, but with Mutare’s 3-point defense strategy, voice spam calls be greatly reduced resulting in fewer digital distractions, greater personal productivity and better contact center KPIs.
To learn more about voice spam defense, email us at voice@mutare.com.