Recently we wrote about an industry problem that is affecting marketing and sales organizations everywhere: spam calls. For some it’s a mere annoyance, and for others this kind of traffic pumping scheme is a disruptive occurrence that has a negative effect on business. As the CEO of a company that focuses on connecting businesses and customers in conversation (often on the phone), I wanted to spend a little time going over why this is happening and what you can do about it—whether you’re a customer of DialogTech or not.
Not sure if this applies to you? Consider this. If you use a toll-free number for your business, have you noticed an increase in “dead air calls” where there is no one on the line? You may have thought it was a cell phone call from an area with bad service, or another VoIP call that just didn’t work. That may not be the case. It may be a bad actor, a fraudulent caller, attempting to deceitfully make money by calling your phone number. Here’s why they’re doing it and what you can do about it.
Spam comes in multiple formats: instant messaging spam, Usenet newsgroup spam, Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, online classified ads spam, mobile phone messaging spam, and more. In short – we’re not alone. Because the barrier to entry is so low, spammers are numerous, and the volume of unsolicited mail has become very high. In 2011, the estimated figure for spam messages is around seven trillion, and that activity takes place on the phone as well.
Why Do They Do It?
Telephone spammers often make money by misappropriating the toll-free number business model. When you place a toll-free call, multiple carriers are involved in routing and completing your call. Each carrier has a revenue-sharing arrangement with other carriers needed to complete the call. The spammers are getting a piece of this revenue share by partnering with a dishonest telephone carrier—however fractional—hence their motivation to drive traffic.
It would be simpler if the calls were point A to point B, but (much like the Internet itself) calls are handed off between multiple carriers to complete a call. To complicate matters, carriers only see the carriers in the chain in front and behind them. No single carrier has the full route back to the spammer. So it makes it difficult to track—and difficult to stop. And while no one has a way to totally stop these calls from happening, there are a number of options to help offset the volume of these unwanted calls.
What You Can Do
In our last blog about this issue, we mentioned a couple ways to mitigate the problem, including using scheduling to send off-hours calls to voicemail, meaning you would stop calls from being delivered to businesses you know aren’t open. There are other methods as well, and your vendor should be able to offer them.
- Number Cleansing
- This is a basic must-have for businesses with phone numbers. Using clean numbers helps reduce the number of fraudulent calls you receive, because the activity that number sees has been monitored carefully before being released. Our carriers age each phone number for a minimum of 30 days prior to passing them off to DialogTech. Once a number has aged 30 days it enters our database and we continue to actively monitor call activity to the number. Numbers that have been deemed clean will then enter available inventory.
- Number Blacklisting
- Number blacklisting is static in the same way that number cleansing is, and is just as basic. Blacklisting undesired calls is a simple stopgap for fending off undesired calls, but it’s also just that: a stopgap. Spammers are tricky and constantly use different phone numbers, so blacklisting will only keep a few of the callers at bay.
- Pattern Matching
- This is a more sophisticated way of outsmarting spammers, and you shouldn’t work with a call tracking vendor unless they are able to provide this kind of call management. Pattern matching works by monitoring the activity of all the phone numbers under our supervision and looking for patterns: a caller from a single phone number dialing dozens—sometimes hundreds—of numbers simultaneously or in a short amount of time. At DialogTech, we watch for these patterns that act as red flags for fraudulent activity, and are able to screen them appropriately.
There is one more technique worth considering. When dealing with spammers attempting to complete web-based form entries, a common anti-spam technique has been used for many years. On the bottom of a form you will often see an image with number or letters in it. You are asked to enter the number or letters to complete submission of the form. Since it is difficult for computers to read images, this eliminates the majority for fraudulent form submissions.
You can use the same technique for phone calls. When a call arrives, look up the caller ID in your system of record (such as a CRM or back office system). If you see the caller ID is from a current prospect or customers, let the call through without intervention. But if the caller ID is unknown, insert a very basic prompt such as “Please press one for English, two for other languages”. Or have a bit of fun if appropriate for your customers. “Please press one if you are human?” If you want to get even more sophisticated, you can prompt the user for a random number each time.
Even with these tactics at our disposal, spammers are usually clever and are constantly finding new ways to adapt to industry defenses and work around them. Like any battle, it is a continuous pattern of one-upmanship in which spammers attempt to best us, and we develop new ways to combat them.
That being said, having the right partner on your side can certainly make a world of difference. If you have any questions about this, or think it is impacting your business, please reach out to our Customer Success Team at 877-295-5100.