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News of the British couple who had their mobile phone stolen on holiday, and subsequently faced a phone bill for GBP8,000, highlights the risk to both mobile phone users and operators associated with mobile roaming. But more could be done to avert the risk posed by phone fraudsters.

The latest mobile fraud news throws up a number of important issues in the mobile space. While most if not all mobile operators employ fraud detection software to try to prevent this kind of fraudulent use of a phone when it is lost or stolen, it is not foolproof, nor can it detect a fraud instantaneously.

Fraud detection software trawls through call records looking for anomalies or unusual behavior patterns that might be the result of a fraud. But for the software to work, it needs to analyze the latest call detail records (CDRs) to establish unusual behavior. When a mobile user is roaming outside of their own country these CDRs are not generated by their home operator but by partner operators. It can take several days for these records to be passed back to the home operator, during which time many thousands of pounds can be defrauded.

But there is something operators can do to protect themselves and their customers. One such system is called Near Real Time Roaming Data Exchange (NRTDE), developed by a little-known German company called OpTel Informatik. According to the company, instead of passing data slowly via the usual billing routes from one partner back to the home operator, NRTDE offers direct transfer via a centralized data exchange platform, using Internet Protocol.

It supports the common CDR standards, and because it can use Internet Protocol to transmit the data, it should be relatively inexpensive, according to OpTel Informatik. Because the information is passed in near real-time to a central exchange, fraud detection is much faster and risks are reduced. Meanwhile, until similar systems become widely adopted, the risk of fraudulent use of "roaming" mobile phones will be ever-present.

Another issue is that while the fraudulent use of a phone to make a call may cost either the owner of the phone or the operator several dollars per minute, with the move towards the use of mobile phones to handle more complex and higher value transactions, the potential damage wreaked by fraud could escalate.

Source: Computerwire/Datamonitor

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