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Secure Signals, NeuStar Take On Cable-Telephony Theft

Secure Signals International, a risk-management firm serving the cable industry, partnered with NeuStar,which provides essential clearinghouse and directory services to the communications industry, to develop software that will help cable operators to detect fraud, especially by their telephone customers.

NeuStar helps customers manage record exchanges, subscriber growth and call origination and termination, among many other services.

The product will mine internal billing records and cross-reference new and current telephony customers to determine if a consumer has generated bad debt in the past. An individual case may not be significant, costing an operator $300-$500 in bad debt, said Secure Signals CEO Stan McGinnis, but if a customer repeatedly subscribes to services using bogus Social Security numbers and names, the loss to a provider could be in the thousands of dollars.

Fraud is already costing traditional telephony providers 5% per year -- a loss of $54.4 billion-$65 billion per year, according to the Communications Fraud Control Association. That is an increase of 1% annually since 2002, according to the trade group.

McGinnis said perpetrators know they are not likely to be disconnected for nonpayment until a bill is 90 days past due, so criminals call up around the 85th day, cancel services, then call back in a few days later to sign up for the same service, using another name and Social Security number. He added that the address is not a red flag -- customer-service representatives are told that the "new" subscriber is newly moved to the address.

The software can also be used upon acquisition; credit records can be checked for ability to pay, so a report may be generated if the new consumer is racking up big transaction charges for European long distance, for instance. The software will also check for past addresses, other Social Security numbers used and past telephone numbers, to be used to cross-reference against cable bad-debt lists going back seven years.