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  • Why Phone Fraud Starts With A Silent Call

    Why Phone Fraud Starts With A Silent Call

    Old Phone

    When you answer your phone and there’s no one on the other end, it could be a computer that’s gathering information about you and your bank account.

    Jonathan Kitchen/Getty Images

    Here’s an experience some of us have had. The phone rings. You pick it up and say “Hello. Hello. Helloooo.” But nobody answers.

    It turns out there could be someone on the other end of the line: an automated computer system that’s calling your number — and tens of thousands of others — to build a list of humans to target for theft.

    Build A List

    Vijay Balasubramaniyan, CEO of Pindrop Security, a company in Atlanta that detects phone fraud, says that in any number of ways, the criminal ring gets your 10 digits and loads them into an automated system.

    Maybe you gave your number to Target or some other big retailer that got hacked. Maybe you entered an online raffle to win a free iPhone.

    According to the Federal Trade Commission, these robocalls are on the rise because Internet-powered phones make it cheap and easy for scammers to make illegal calls from anywhere in the world.

    That initial call you get, with silence on the other end, “[is] essentially the first of the reconnaissance calls that these fraudsters do,” Balasubramaniyan says. “They’re trying to see: Are they getting a human on the other end? You even cough and it knows you’re there.”

    Gather Account Information

    The next step is gathering information about your bank or credit card account. You get a call with a prerecorded voice that tells you, for example, “[we’re] calling with an important message about your debit card. If you are the cardholder please stay on the line and press 1. Otherwise please have the cardholder call us at 1-877…”

    If you’re thinking about ignoring it, the message tries to scare you into paying attention with a warning: “A temporary hold may have been placed on your account and will be removed upon verification of activity.”

    That number leads to another automated system that prompts you to share personal details like your date of birth, your card number and secure PIN, the expiration date, your Social Security number.

    It can be tricky because many real banks have a similar system. And, Balasubramaniyan says, fear does kick in. He recalls a big scam in 2014 in which criminals pretended to be the IRS calling to collect back taxes. (The agency says the scam is still going on.) If you wanted to call back or have time to talk to your spouse before paying over the phone, the fraudster wouldn’t let you go.

    Balasubramaniyan recalls, “They’re like ‘OK, if you want a moment to process this, we’re going to send the law enforcement in front of your doorstep.’ ”

    Pindrop keeps a “honeypot” — about a quarter-million phone numbers that aren’t being used by real people, which the company uses for research. Workers enter the numbers into sweepstakes and online databases, to see what kind of fraud hits.

    Company researchers estimate 1 in every 2,200 calls is a fraud attempt. And they’ve observed an interesting detail about the fraudulent 1-877 numbers. If you call back from your phone — which the criminals dialed — you get the prompt to enter personal data. If you call back from somewhere else, you get “this number has been deactivated.” So a regulator or police officer that’s trying to crack down will think, incorrectly, it’s out of commission.

    Hijack Account

    Once the criminal ring scrapes enough information on you, it has humans call your financial institution. Banks and credit card companies hire Pindrop to help them detect fraud.

    In a real-life example, provided by one call center, the operator has a hard time hearing the caller and apologizes.

    The caller, who is pretending to be the account holder, wants to know his available credit — to make sure the account is worth pursuing.

    “Got it,” the operator says, eager to provide good customer service. “Your available credit is $34,999.”

    That’s good money. The caller says, “OK, can you help me update my address today?” and he proceeds to take over the account.


    Now, there are clues that the guy calling isn’t legit. There are long breaks in his voice when he says, “I’d like to know the available credit in my account.”

    Internet-based phone services divide your voice into little packets, wrap them up and ship them across the network. If a packet gets lost, you get a break in the audio. The size of the break varies, by country and by network conditions. The specific device you use (Samsung Galaxy, MacBook Air, for example) and the voice itself give additional clues.

    Pindrop has a tool that puts about 147 clues together and rates how trustworthy the caller is in real time. So an operator can tell, Balasubramaniyan says, “this call is supposed to come from a landline in Atlanta, but the audio is telling us it’s a Skype call from West Africa.”

    There’s no similar tool available for the average person. Balasubramaniyan says your best bet is to make sure the number you’re calling matches the number on the back of your credit or debit card, or the bank’s website.

    Pindrop declined to name its clients, because of nondisclosure agreements, but it says three of the four biggest banks use its services. The startup has gathered millions of samples from call centers and, based on analysis of unique callers and devices, Balasubramaniyan believes his team has identified a specific criminal group in Nigeria.

    The ring, nicknamed “West Africa One,” has a dozen members according to Pindrop. And they have varying skill levels. If a bank account has a larger credit line, it goes to one particular fraudster who’s particularly adept at manipulating call center operators.

    “The fraudster who’s attacking the $100,000-and-more account has so much information at his disposal, he’s done so much research on the account, that he’s flawless on his call,” Balasubramaniyan says. “When the call center agent asks him a particular question, the way he answers, the pauses that he takes, all of that is a work of art as compared to someone going after the smaller-sized accounts.”

    Balasubramaniyan says while Pindrop has shared this information with its clients, he does not know if they are pursuing criminal investigations.

    ‘Just Hang Up’

    The FTC is trying to combat the rising number of illegal automated phone calls.

    “It is the No. 1 consumer complaint that we receive,” says Patty Hsue, an attorney who leads the FTC’s effort against robocalls. The agency receives an average of 170,000 complaints per month about robocalls, she tells NPR’s Audie Cornish.

    The FTC recommends that consumers “just hang up” on the robocalls.

    “We don’t want consumers to engage in any way with robocallers,” Hsue says. “A lot of times when you get a robocall you have the option of pressing 1 for more information or pressing 2 to ask to be removed from the list. And in either case, pressing 1 or 2 basically lets the robocaller know that it’s a live person on the other line who’s willing to engage and that could lead to additional robocalls.”

  • Call timer;

    Call Timer lets a keyset user with a Call Timer key time their outside calls on the telephone display. There are two types of Call Timer keys:
    • Manual Call Timer 
      • Any time while placing a call or while on a call, a display keyset user can press their Manual Call Timer key to start the Call Timer. The Call Timer will continue until the user hangs up or presses their Manual Call Timer key again.
    • Automatic Call Timer
      • In addition to the features of the Manual Call Timer key, the Automatic Call Timer key provides automatic timing for outside calls. When a display keyset with an Automatic Call Timer key places or answers an out- side call, the Call Timer automatically starts when that outside call connects. The Automatic Call Timer does not automatically start for Intercom calls. The Automatic Call Timer can also work like a Manual Call Timer key. There is no need to have a Manual and Automatic Call Timer key on the same phone.
    The Call Timer feature also provides:
    • Review of Previously Timed Call 
      • Any time after hanging up from a timed call, a display keyset user can press their Manual or Automatic Call Timer key to review the duration of that call.
    • Timer Reset for Current Call 
      • While the display keyset user is timing their call, they can press CLEAR at any time to reset the Call Timer to 00:00:00.
    • Automatic Timer Stop 
      • The system assigns the Call Timer to the active call. When the user terminates the active call, the Call Timer automatically shuts down.
    • Wrap-up Timer Display
      • After hanging up a timed call, a display keyset will show the Call Timer data for 6 seconds before returning the display to idle. This gives the extension user adequate time to make a record of the timed call, if desired.
    In the Mobile network CDMA (Verizon & Sprint) Does not offer Automatic call timer however CDMA Does (AT&T & T-Mobile)
    Continue reading  Post ID 90213
    Continue reading  Post ID 90213

  • CDMA vs. GSM: What’s the Difference?

    If you’re shopping for a mobile phone, you’re in for a lot of acronyms. Here’s what you need to know about two basic, yet important, terms


    Two basic technologies in mobile phones, CDMA and GSM represent a gap you can’t cross. They’re the reason you can’t use many AT&T phones on Verizon’s network and vice versa. But what does CDMA vs. GSM really mean for you?

    CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) and GSM (Global System for Mobiles) are shorthand for the two major radio systems used in cell phones. Both acronyms tend to group together a bunch of technologies run by the same entities. In this story, I’ll try to explain who uses which technology and what the real differences are.

    Which Carriers Are CDMA? Which Are GSM?

    In the US, Sprint, Verizon and US Cellular use CDMA. AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM.

    Most of the rest of the world uses GSM. The global spread of GSM came about because in 1987, Europe mandated the technology by law, and because GSM comes from an industry consortium. What we call CDMA, by and large, is owned by chipmaker Qualcomm. This made it less expensive for third parties to build GSM equipment.

    There are several variants and options carriers can choose, like toppings on their technological ice cream. In this story we’ll focus on US networks.

    What CDMA vs. GSM Means to You

    For call quality, the technology you use is much less important than the way your carrier has built its network. There are good and bad CDMA and GSM networks, but there are key differences between the technologies. Here’s what you, as a consumer, need to know.

    It’s much easier to swap phones on GSM networks, because GSM carriers put customer information on a removable SIM card. Take the card out, put it in a different phone, and the new phone now has your number. What’s more, to be considered GSM, a carrier must accept any GSM-compliant phone. So the GSM carriers don’t have total control of the phone you’re using.

    That’s not the case with CDMA. In the US, CDMA carriers use network-based white lists to verify their subscribers. That means you can only switch phones with your carrier’s permission, and a carrier doesn’t have to accept any particular phone onto its network. It could, but typically, US carriers choose not to.

    Many Sprint and Verizon phones now have SIM cards, but that isn’t because of CDMA. The SIM cards are there for Sprint’s and Verizon’s 4G LTE networks, because the LTE standard also uses SIM cards. The phones may also have SIM slots to support foreign GSM networks as “world phones.”

    3G CDMA networks (known as “EV-DO” or “Evolution Data Optimized”) also, generally, can’t make voice calls and transmit data at the same time. Once more, that’s an available option (known as “SV-DO” for “Simultaneous Voice and Data Optimization”), but one that US carriers haven’t adopted for their networks and phones.

    On the other hand, all 3G GSM networks have simultaneous voice and data, because it’s a required part of the spec. (3G GSM is also actually a type of CDMA. I’ll explain that later.)

    So why did so many US carriers go with CDMA? Timing. When Verizon’s predecessors and Sprint switched from analog to digital in 1995 and 1996, CDMA was the newest, hottest, fastest technology. It offered more capacity, better call quality and more potential than the GSM of the day. GSM caught up, but by then those carriers’ paths were set.

    It’s possible to switch from CDMA to GSM. Bell and Telus in Canada have done it, to get access to the wider variety of off-the-shelf GSM phones. But Verizon and Sprint are big enough that they can get custom phones built for them, so they don’t see the need to waste money switching 3G technologies when they could be building out their 4G networks.

    The Technology Behind CDMA vs. GSM

    CDMA and GSM are both multiple access technologies. They’re ways for people to cram multiple phone calls or Internet connections into one radio channel.

    GSM came first. It’s a “time division” system. Calls take turns. Your voice is transformed into digital data, which is given a channel and a time slot, so three calls on one channel look like this: 123123123123. On the other end, the receiver listens only to the assigned time slot and pieces the call back together.

    The pulsing of the time division signal created the notorious “GSM buzz,” a buzzing sound whenever you put a GSM phone near a speaker. That’s mostly gone now, because 3G GSM (as I explain later) isn’t a time division technology.

    CDMA required a bit more processing power. It’s a “code division” system. Every call’s data is encoded with a unique key, then the calls are all transmitted at once; if you have calls 1, 2, and 3 in a channel, the channel would just say 66666666. The receivers each have the unique key to “divide” the combined signal into its individual calls.

    Code division turned out to be a more powerful and flexible technology, so “3G GSM” is actually a CDMA technology, called WCDMA (wideband CDMA) or UMTS (Universal Mobile Telephone System). WCDMA requires wider channels than older CDMA systems, as the name implies, but it has more data capacity.

    Since its inception, GSM has evolved faster than CDMA. As I mentioned above, WCDMA is considered the 3G version of GSM technology. To further speed things up, the 3GPP (the GSM governing body) released extensions called HSPA, which have sped GSM networks up to as fast as 42Mbps, at least in theory.

    Our CDMA networks, meanwhile, are stuck at 3.6Mbps. While faster CDMA technologies exist, US carriers chose not to install them and instead turned to 4G LTE to be more compatible with global standards.

    LTE Closes the Gap

    LTE, or “Long Term Evolution,” is the globally accepted 4G wireless standard. All of the US carriers use it. For more, see 3G vs. 4G: What’s the Difference? So you’d think, hey, that should make everyone compatible, right? Wrong.

    While most phones in 2017 use LTE for data, Sprint phones still use CDMA for all voice calls, and Verizon still has a network-based whitelist for phones that will work on its network. You can try to wiggle around the whitelist, as ZTE did with its Axon 7 phone, but the process is very unreliable.

    In June, Verizon introduced its first two LTE-only phones, the LG Exalt LTE and HTC U11. This is part of a move to an all-LTE system; Verizon says it wants to shut down CDMA by the end of 2019. Without CDMA, it’s going to become easier for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon devices to be compatible in the future, but that still leaves Sprint out.

    Also, the four carriers are using LTE in different frequency bands, with some of their phones specced to exclude the other carriers’ bands, making it harder to switch carriers. Sprint, once again, is the odd one out here, because it runs an unusual variant of LTE (TD-LTE) on an unusual frequency band (Band 41.)

    A few phones support all four carriers by combining CDMA, GSM and LTE. The iPhone 6 and later; the Motorola Moto G4 and later; the Samsung Galaxy S7 and later; the Nexus 6 and later; the Google Pixel phones and the Moto E4 all work across all four carriers. Other manufacturers of unlocked devices generally don’t include CDMA radios because they don’t see a big market in unlocked phones being used on Sprint and Verizon.

    So what does all of this mean for you? If you want to switch phones often, use your phone in Europe, or use imported phones, just go with AT&T, T-Mobile, or virtual carriers on those networks. Otherwise, pick your carrier based on coverage and call quality in your area and assume you’ll probably need a new phone if you switch carriers. Our Readers’ Choice and Fastest Mobile Networks awards are a great place to start.

    Continue reading  Post ID 90213

  • 800-Year-Old Mobile Phone Found In Austria?

    09:06+00:00">September 5, 2017 EthEST  David Bidwell
    A remarkable artifact has been found by a team of archaeologists in Austria. The artifact which resembles a modern day cellphone was reportedly found earlier this year by archaeologists digging in a city in the Austrian state of Salzburg. Support My Channel Here
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