'TeleSign embeds trust at every touchpoint,' assures Joseph Burton

Media 7 | December 8, 2021

Joseph Burton, Chief Executive Officer at TeleSign elaborates on Promotion Abuse, Communication Fraud, and Buy Now Pay Later Fraud. Read on to know about the biggest online financial threat for consumers and much more.

In 2022, Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) will continue to be a top retail priority. As BNPL growth continues to surge – so will the opportunities for fraudsters.

MEDIA 7: Thank you so much for doing this with us! It’s the holiday season, shopping and online transactions are happening on a large scale. What is the biggest online financial threat for consumers?
When it comes to cybercrime, essentially every person has been a victim – 9 out of 10 people have been subject to credit card fraud, identity theft, or a data breach. Millions of usernames and passwords, physical addresses, credit card numbers, and social security numbers are breached every week and are made available on the dark web. With all of that Personable Identifiable Information (PII) online, synthetic identity theft has become the fastest-growing type of financial fraud in the United States. Unlike traditional identity theft where criminals steal a specific person’s identity, synthetic identity theft involves creating a new, fictitious identity. Fraudsters use a mix of real and fake information – social security numbers, phone numbers, addresses, and birth dates – to create a fake identity.

Fraudsters use these synthetic identities to apply for credit cards and loans, illegally purchase goods online, and create fake product reviews. Synthetic identity fraud creates financial and reputational consequences for consumers, retailers, and financial institutions. For consumers, they are at risk of unauthorized purchases on their credit or debit cards and negative marks on their credit score. And their purchase decisions can be influenced by fake, positively inflated product reviews. Synthetic identity fraud is made possible by elaborate phishing and social engineering schemes. Fraudsters use deceitful emails, text messages, phone calls, and web pages to coerce PII from unsuspecting consumers. Phishing attacks are Pandora’s box to consumer fraud.

M7: Online retailers are now required to improve their security measures given the rise in threats to data privacy. How is TeleSign contributing to the fight against fraud?
Fraud is increasingly common, costly, and complex. With billions of targets and trillions of dollars at stake, fraudsters have found their groove. 2021 was the first time that successful fraud attempts outnumbered those prevented. In the last 24 months, half – 47% – of companies experienced fraud. Fraudulent losses are significant. On average, businesses lose 5% of their annual revenue to fraud. In addition to the financial risk, fraud introduces a lack of customer satisfaction, as well as reputational & legal damages. Faced with an array of sophisticated attacks, TeleSign helps security teams create a multilayered fraud prevention framework using digital identity signals, machine learning algorithms, and behavioral risk assessments to stay one step ahead of bad actors.

Throughout every stage of the customer journey, TeleSign helps to detect and defend against fraud. When onboarding new customers, businesses can layer in digital identity signals to flag risky users, block fake users, while giving legitimate users a fast and frictionless sign-up experience. For active accounts, TeleSign embeds trust at every touchpoint, ensuring every log-in is secure and every transaction is safe. TeleSign's zero-trust approach assesses the risk of every interaction to maintain the integrity of every account.

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When consumers can use their preferred communication channels, more than half are more likely to recommend, buy more, or make a first-time purchase.

M7: TeleSign focuses on Promotion Abuse, Communication Fraud, and Buy Now Pay Later Fraud. These terms are relatively new, could you please elaborate on these for our readers?
JB: Communications Fraud/IRSF (G)

Despite plaguing the telecom industry for more than two decades, International Revenue Share Fraud (IRSF) is a relatively unknown type of attack and it’s experiencing a digital resurgence. IRSF is caused by the artificial inflation of call traffic to premium-rate numbers across the world. Generally, the fraudster leases expensive phone numbers – like psychic or dating hotlines – from an International Premium Rate Number Providers (IPRN) and both parties receive a share of the revenue for every call that’s placed. Over the last couple of years, we have seen fraudsters deploy new, sophisticated tactics to generate a higher volume of calls. For example, using bots and automated scripts, fraudsters can create millions of fake account creations or password reset requests. They nefariously attack web and mobile applications knowing that a voice call – to the premium number they profit on– is a component of account registration or password reset flow. IRSF is sneaky and happens behind the scenes. It is responsible for a $4-6 billion loss each year.

Promotion Abuse

As the retail season kicks into high gear, retailers must create compelling offers, discounts, and promotions to attract customers. But for many retailers, promotions are a double-edged sword. While they keep customers loyal and increase conversion rates, the inevitable abuse of promotions is costly. Promotion abuse occurs when one consumer uses multiple accounts to take advantage of rewards, sales, or other discounts. From sign-up bonuses to coupon codes, three out of four retailers (73%) have experienced promotion abuse in the last 12 months, which equates to an approximate 1.2% loss of revenue. To cut down on promotion abuse, retailers need to close their loopholes and prevent consumers from creating multiple accounts with fake email addresses and/or phone numbers.

Buy Now Pay Later Fraud

Convenience, useability, and affordability: a recipe for consumer success. It is those benefits that have made Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) platforms a ubiquitous success. A modern ‘payment plan’ and reimagined ‘layaway,’ BNPL is short-term financing that allows consumers to make a purchase and receive it immediately, but pay for it at a later time, usually over a series of installments. In 2022, BNPL will continue to be a top retail priority and I expect to see retailers extend BNPL payment options in their physical retail stores. As BNPL growth continues to surge – so will the opportunities for fraudsters.

2021 was the first time that successful fraud attempts outnumbered those prevented.

M7: TeleSign connects and protects online experiences with its engagement solutions. What are the different ways TeleSign helps ensure secure and reliable customer communication?
Communication across the customer journey is dynamic. Eighty-two percent of B2B buyers and 72% of B2C customers use multiple communication channels throughout their path to purchase. In fact, the availability of multichannel communication increases the bottom line. According to Forrester, when consumers can use their preferred communication channels, more than half are more likely to recommend, buy more, or make a first-time purchase. To excel in today’s competitive markets, it’s critical to make your customer communication fast, easy, and secure. From account verification to purchase confirmation, TeleSign delivers reliable communication across the customer journey.

As the pioneer of SMS verification, TeleSign helps connect the world’s most trusted brands to their customers. Our programmable engagement solution empowers businesses to embed messaging, voice, and authentication capabilities into their product and applications via developer-friendly APIs. TeleSign is at the forefront of keeping the digital economy secure, with an established presence on nearly every communications channel. Our customers can create tailored, omnichannel user experiences. And with a global footprint, more than seven hundred direct-to-carrier routes, and constant network traffic monitoring, TeleSign’s dependability is unmatched.

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M7: You have had an exemplary professional journey of over 30 years. Seeing the rapid change in technology and digitalization what future do you predict for this industry?
Today we’re protecting humans, tomorrow we’re protecting devices and machines – bringing the digital identity business to twenty-five billion devices.


TeleSign provides continuous trust to leading global enterprises by connecting, protecting, and defending their digital identities. TeleSign verifies over five billion unique phone numbers a month, representing half of the world’s mobile users, and provides critical insight into the remaining billions. The company’s powerful AI and extensive data science deliver identity with a unique combination of speed, accuracy, and global reach. TeleSign solutions prevent fraud, secure communications, and enable the digital economy by allowing companies and customers to engage with confidence. Learn more at www.telesign.com and follow us on Twitter at @TeleSign.