It’s international Fraud Week, and long distance and international phone fraud poses a threat to every business—no matter how big or small. Specifically, International Revenue Share Fraud (IRSF) can rack up thousands of dollars of unwarranted charges in mere minutes, leaving your business on the hook for massive amounts of unexpected fees. Without the necessary precautions in place, you could be scammed and never know it was happening until it is too late.

“It’s not uncommon for a commercial customer that has taken no precautions to, in a matter of hours, have anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 in international call charges,” said Phillip Berry, Product Management Manager at TDS.

IRSF occurs when hackers access your phone system through weak passwords such as “1234,” or unchanged factory default settings. Once the hackers gain access to your system, they place long distance and international calls, generating money for them and leaving you on the hook for the associated fees. Here are four ways you can protect your business from IRSF:

1. Update Your Phone System

Updating your business phone system is the easiest way to protect yourself from IRSF. The manufacturers of phone systems will often send out security patches, which can be vital in stopping would-be hackers from gaining access.

“A lot of people buy a phone system and then never touch it again,” Berry said. “Having an up-to-date phone system can prevent fraudsters from ever gaining access to your system.”

2. Use Complex Passwords

Unfortunately, many business owners do not use complex passwords for their phone system. Even worse, some do not change their password from the factory default.

“Having a simple password is like leaving your car running in the driveway with the door open,” Berry said. “You’re just an easy target.”

While it may seem inconvenient to remember a long, complex password, it can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

3. Disable External Call Forwarding

Once in your system, hackers and fraudsters can use the external call forwarding feature to place as many calls as humanly possible to rack up fees for you and your business. Most phone systems will allow for up to 1,000 calls to be made, meaning hackers can inflict a lot of damage. By reducing the number of simultaneous calls used for external call forwarding, you can give yourself peace of mind and save a lot of money.

If your business needs the external call forwarding feature, it is recommended that your change your phone system settings to only allow two external call forwards at a time.

4Pick the right Internet Provider

Your internet provider is often the first line of defense against scams like IRSF and can prevent or mitigate much of the damage. TDS Telecom is constantly monitoring for scams, such as IRSF.

“We have a list of high-fraud locations that we automatically block calls from to protect our customers from these types of fraud,” Berry said. “We get things shut down pretty quick.”

TDS also has a fraud monitoring system that scans international usage of phone systems for patterns that would indicate fraud. This allows for TDS to be able to stop and protect customers from new fraud techniques before they become popular and widespread.

While TDS monitors the “outdoor” for IRSF, by definition, some amount of fraud has to occur for it to be detected.  TDS detects and shuts down IRSF as quickly as possible, but this means that fraudsters have accessed your phone system and already started to make fraudulent calls.  The best strategy is to make sure fraudsters do not have access through the “in door” to your phone system.

Here are some other areas where you may be able to protect your phone system from hackers and IRSF scams.

  • If you have no need to call Internationally, add international call blocks to all your lines. This can be done both in your phone system and with your phone provider.  TDS adds international call blocks on the TDS network free of charge.
  • Talk to your insurance provider about Commercial Crime and Fraud Insurance coverage. Make sure it includes phone, international calling fraud, and/or IRSF.  This coverage also includes insurance coverage for things like computer fraud, theft from social engineering, or forgery.

By Will Chamblee, TDS Communications Intern

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