Short-stopping isn’t as well-known as other types of telecom fraud, but it’s actually very common. In simple terms, short-stopping is when a call is hijacked before it reaches its target destination, usually by a scammer working with a rogue carrier somewhere on the call transit path. The scammer then pumps the hijacked calls to an expensive destination country. The hackers and the rogue carriers share the revenue generated by the fraudulent calls, which are billed either to the end customer or to another carrier in the routing flow.
After short-stopping the call, scammers use various tactics to keep callers on the line and rack up charges. Sometimes, the caller will get a false ring tone or a fake network announcement such as: “The person you are calling has not responded, please try again later”. In other cases, the scammer plays a message such as, “Hello? Hello? I can’t hear you. Hold on…” etc. Since these recordings often sound legitimate, callers might not even be aware that the fraud has taken place until they get an exorbitant bill for calls to a destination that they never dialed.
The impact of short-stopping
The Communications Fraud Control Association (CFCA) estimates losses to telcos from short-stopping and other types of International Revenue Share Fraud (IRSF) [NK1] totaled $4 billion in 2019, mostly caused by hackers pumping calls to expensive locations. The revenue loss is significant enough to give telcos a clear incentive to mitigate this fraud risk.
Short-stopping is also very detrimental to customers. They might suddenly be saddled with an expensive bill to a destination that they never called, or be unable to get through to the number that they are trying to reach. Moreover, since fraudsters target destinations with higher termination rates so that they can cut a share of the profits, operators sometimes block the numbering plans of costly countries altogether, in an attempt to protect themselves from telecom fraud. Customers who legitimately want to reach those countries are unable to do so.
A better fraud prevention solution
Although customers receive bills from one source, they are actually paying three or more different entities for every call they place including:
1. Originating operator (dial tone service): The operator who connects the call from the customer's equipment to a telephone company
2. Transit operator/s: The carriers that transport the signal (call) to another telephone company office near the targeted recipient
3. Terminating operator: The operator that completes the call by connecting it to the receiving subscriber's equipment
Like many other fraud scenarios, transit operators are often behind or party to short-stopping—the transit stage is thought to be the “wild west” of voice traffic. By joining the AB Handshake community, originating and terminating operators can protect themselves from criminal transit operators, and stop fraud in real time.
It’s simple. AB Handshake allows the originating operator to validate the call directly with the terminating operator using a unique ‘handshake’. If the call has been hijacked, the false termination operator won’t be able to validate the call. The call will immediately be identified as fraudulent and will be automatically blocked in real-time. There is no way for short-stopped calls to get through if the originating and terminating operators are both members of the community. Since AB Handshake analyzes every call individually, operators don’t need to preventively block problematic locations and all legitimate calls to those locations can get through.
Working together to fight short-stopping
Short-stopping is a serious threat to the entire telecommunication industry. It results in an enormous loss of revenue, some of which is absorbed by the telco, and some of which is passed onto customers. Joining the AB Handshake community is both a public commitment to fighting fraud and an effective way to fight short-stopping and other fraud risks both to your own company, and to other companies in the telecom network. Karsten Lereuth, a telecom industry leader for over three decades, summed it up like this: “I would say it is all about fair play. If you are willing to join the clean game, there is no reason to refuse the tools that can prove your transparency. The AB Handshake provides the opportunity to establish a virtual direct interconnect with all the partners, even the ones that you do not know. It creates a community of trusted partners, and I can see absolutely no reasons not to join it.”