Scammers find loophole in ICASA’s VoIP regulations

Fraud on the rise with Caller ID Spoofing as fraudsters turn to digital telephony as a new form of Phishing

Johannesburg, Gauteng, November 17, 2010- Caller ID  spoofing, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the act of manipulating or changing the phone number that appears on someone’s call display when you place a call to them.

In a new phishing scam, con artists are using phony caller ID numbers to solicit personal information and money. Thanks to the phony caller IDs, the “spoofers” are able to convince victims that they’re receiving a call from a bank or credit card company — and use this to acquire sensitive personal and financial information, or even money, from their victims.

The success of this scam is that few people would ever think that the name and phone number appearing on their caller ID screen is not genuine.

What this means is that  scammers are already using phony caller IDs and are posing as representatives of banks,  credit card  companies  and government agencies.

This spoofing facility is made available by suspect VoIP providers.

Mohammad Patel, CEO of O-Tel Telecom strongly advocates the banning of changing CallerID to any other number except for the accounts allocated number.

 ‘With the ever-increasing popularity of digital Telephony and the number of VoIP Providers on the increase,  ‘Fly-By-Night’ providers will do anything to make a quick buck as they offer calls at below cost, and shady services such as this Caller ID Spoofing amongst empty promises. € Patel comments.
 €œWhat could begin as an innocent service offer if the client insists on his  ‘Telkom’ number to show to the call recipients instead of the VoIP providers newly allocated number, can soon turn into a dangerous situation for consumers. €

Most banks and larger organisations will use PRI number range, like 011  841 0000. The cell user will most likely save this number on his cell phone and allocate a name to it. When a call arrives with this caller ID, the name will pop up informing called that this large company/bank is calling.

Newer phones will accept digital headers sent to it, so even if the number is not saved in the users cell phonebook, the name will still appear, eg: XYZ Bank

Patel adds,  €œAfter discussions with some of the other leading players in the industry, we’ve found that most of the bona-fide VoIP providers in South Africa, including O-Tel, do not allow this facility on the network. Although it is not yet deemed illegal to allow such facility, common sense prevails.

Whilst we already suffer from E-mail Phishing Scams, we need to close all avenues to ensure the fraudsters do not use this technology to defraud the unsuspecting public. €

Patel appeals to ISPA, ICASA and all related organisations to look into this matter with great urgency.

The message that should be given to the public is to be cautious in any situation.

Here are three tips that can help you avoid being scammed:

  1. Don’t assume that the information displayed on your phone, regarding who the caller is, is accurate — now you know it can easily be spoofed.
  2. Never give out personal or financial information over the phone unless you know EXACTLY whom you’re dealing with.
  3. If you have doubts about who’s on the phone, call back the main number at your bank or credit card company rather than talking to the person who calls you.

The moral of the story is that — at least for now —  you can’t trust caller ID to tell “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”


The VoIP revolution!initialised

The VoIP revolution!initialised


Whilst boarding a flight to Cape Town, a mumbling gentleman browsing away on his iPhone tells me in a German accent that  ‘3G in this country is not fast’.
Thinking back of the days without mobile internet and 3G, I simply smiled at him.

The telecommunications in South Africa is a very (as in local terms) colourful industry. Fortunately, I have walked many steps towards telecommunication freedom being a participant in its growth since the inception of the cellular telephone (Motorola brick size era), and SLIP internet access. I wish back then someone gave me a heads up on what to expect in the industry. I could have invested in one or two ventures which are worth millions today.

I’m here to give you a heads up. Take it or leave it, it’s risk free. I will briefly list this VoIP technology which would surely, with the correct approach, be in the years to come a very profitable value added product to add to your basket of services.

The key word today is  ‘UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS‘.

What’s that, you ask?

In simple terms, it’s the integration of real-time communication services, such as

  • IP Telephony,
  • Video Conferencing,
  • Presence Information,
  • Call Control
  • Instant Messaging (chat)
  • Speech Recognition

As well as non-real-time communication services, also known as  ‘Unified Messaging’ such as

  • Voicemail
  • E-mail
  • SMS
  • Fax

Whilst the list above has been compiled within a group, it is not a single product, but a set of products that  provides a consistent unified user interface and user experience across multiple devices and media types.

When you walk into a bank, do you see the clerks updating their ledger books manually? No, they have moved towards the 21st century way of doing business to increase productivity. Your SME and corporate clients need to move away from the conventional method of  ‘tin-can’ telephony.

To our benefit, most competitors are One Dimensional, thinking only of the present. This is how the mighty in the industry have recentl fallen. O-Tel keeps abreast of technology, hence we’re always leading!

Today, clients telephony needs are

  • Simplicity,
  • Flexibility
  • Practicality,
  • Productivity,
  • Low capital investment,
  • Pay only for what you need,
  • Ease of use,
  • Customizable charge plans
  • Mobility
  • Turnkey solution from one provider,
  • No long term contracts
  • Simple Self management
  • Control and setup from anywhere
  • 3rd Party secure hosting
  • Overall saving
  • SIP clients on Cell Phones

Selling points of O-Tel’s 1Cloud PBX service:


1) Latest   and State of the Art Digital PBX Facility
1Cloud provides business customers with a leading edge phone system without the associated capital cost. From day one you will have a system that delivers all the current features plus tomorrows as they become available.

2) The latest technology all the time
1Cloud does not become obsolete. A soon as we introduce new features, we roll them out to our customers, so you won’t have to worry about another large capital equipment upgrade a few years down the road.

3) Pay As You Grow
With 1Cloud, there is no penalty to start small and then add  €œseats € to the system as you grow, as you only pay for the seats you need on a monthly basis.

4) Reduce Trunk Line costs
Renting trunk lines from Telkom is expensive for most organisations that rely on voice for both internal communications and customer interaction. Trunk line rental is a significant part of monthly overhead cost. Reduce this overhead cost by centralizing your digital trunks.

5) Reduce Call Costs
While saving on calls is no longer the primary driver for adopting 1Cloud VoIP, it can be a prime factor for organisations that have multiple offices requiring frequent voice communication, so not having to pay for that communication can reduce a large amount from an organisation’s operational budget.

6) Instant Communication and Collaboration
1Cloud VoIP improves productivity and the ability to collaborate remotely by creating direct links between teleworkers and office-based workers with the click of a mouse – a “workplace without borders.”

7) Seamless Teleworker Connectivity
The 1Cloud system makes it easy to integrate teleworkers into the business telephone system through their own broadband connections. In addition, your customers will be able to reach your teleworkers through your corporate switchboard, regardless of where the worker is physically located.

8 ) Respond More Quickly to Customers
With the 1Cloud system, companies can improve customer communication by providing them with VoIP telephones that allow them to contact your sales and service departments directly, free.

9) Cut Move, Addition and Change Costs
Every time your company moves, adds, or changes a conventional telephone connection, it costs money. With 1Cloud, your network configuration is software programmable and its voice signals are carried over your business LAN so you can administer the changes yourself.

10) Your Number Moves With You
Unlike traditional numbers, you can take your number with you, down the road, to another town, or even another country as the system is not dependent upon your geographic location.

Now that you know what Unified Communications is about and how to sell it, you will be glad to know that the service is provided at wholesale. You begin with a free monthly service, and upgrade as you require, customizing your strategy and paying for only what you

Now that you know what Unified Communications is about and how to sell it, you will be glad to know that the service is provided at wholesale. You begin with a free monthly service, and upgrade as you require, customizing your strategy and paying for only what you need.

See the pricing below:

LIMITS Retail Wholesale
clients 2
phone extensions 3 10
public concurrent calls 2 6
internal concurrent calls 2 8
Once-Off Setup Fee R 99 R 499
Minimum Monthly Airtime Spend R 100 R 5 000
Monthly Fee
Sign Up!
================
EXTRAS (monthly   rental) Retail Wholesale
Client Accounts R 10
Phone Extensions R 30 R150 /10 pack
DiD (telephone number) R 20 R 10
IVR extensions R 70 R149 / 5 pack
conference extensions R 100 R99 / 2 pack
callback extensions (5 cIDs) R 50 R 25
callback callerIDs  (10 cIDs) R 50 R 25
intercom/paging extensions R 25 R 15
queue members  (5 Qs) R 25 R 15
queue extensions  (10 Qs) R 25 R 15
queue login center extensions (5 Qs) R 25 R 15
voicemail center extension R 100 R 50
mailbox (2MB per box) R 15 R50 / 5 pack
disk space for voicemail  (per 10MB) R 25 R 10
disk space for call recording (per 50MB) R 500 R 300
disk space for sound files  (per 10MB) R 25 R 10
disk space for music on hold files  (per 10MB) R 25 R 10
disk space for received faxes  (per 10MB) R 25 R 10
Uncapped 512kbps account (your ADSL Line) R 379 R 299
================
CALL RATES Retail Wholesale
Land Line R 0.49 POA
Mobile Call R 1.25 POA
Land Line Connect Fee 30 seconds POA
Billing Type Per second POA
================
All prices exclude VAT

Jump onto the bandwagon immediately and benefit from the future of telephony!


GNP: Rise of the WISPs

The South African Broadband Internet industry began its digital evolution in the mid 2000s. Since then, internet access, both fixed, wireless and mobile, have become a commodity.
Wireless Operators have been investing in new and expensive technologies to create more sources of revenue, improve their ARPUs (average revenue per user), and overcome the competition in the heavily saturated marketplace. Infrastructure, customer acquisition and retention costs each got higher and higher, however, income never did reach their optimistic expectations.

Wireless internet Service Providers (WISPs) in particular were the most affected. The majority are technically minded owner run small operators. Many have grown their network wide, rapidly and considerably due to their advanced technical knowledge, high internet demand in their area and somewhat a good and reputable uptime record.

In order to achieve quicker ROI (Return on Investment), the WISP had to maximise the usability of the under-utilized network. This is done by offering more than just internet access. Increasing services means increasing income and profitability.

VoIP was the natural service to offer. The incumbents failing network, lack of connections in the rural areas and poor levels of after sales service was the catalyst in the rise of VoIP over Wireless. The low cost of network deployment is privately funded, hence there is no financial pressure to recover the investment, but the vision is to deploy a wider network rapidly.

What WISPs do not realize is that opportunity is on their doorstep. Since the inception of Geographic Number Portability (GNP), the end user client no longer requires hybrid hardware (converters of analog to digital telephony) to terminate his incoming POTS number over the analogue line. A full digital telephony service can now be offered by cancelling the user’s telephone service with the current analogue provider.

Deployments are quicker, a wireless installation can be done within 24hours. The user can be offered additional services such as Unified Communications, Hosted PBX and IPTV.

With a carefully chosen Internet Telephony Infrastructure Service Provider (ITISP), a competitively priced all-inclusive package and a stable wireless network, the WISP can take on Goliath in any town in South Africa.
Setting up a full VoIP backhaul and service can take a day. Porting a number requires completing a couple of forms which is then submitted to the ITISP.

“Opportunities? They are all around us?there is power lying latent everywhere waiting for the observant eye to discover it.”
~Orison Swett Marden, (1870’s)  American writer associated with the  New Thought Movement.

Yes, it is a matter of confidence. Most WISPs can’t keep up with the demand, suffering from all sorts of growing pains. Most think offering such service requires major capital outlay. Little do they know that their current infrastructure will handle the service adequately. A month of testing with a free trial would surely build up that confidence level. A good ITISP will support the WISP by charging him according to his growth.

After all, when the opportunity is knocking, open the door now as it will not knock for much longer. The room might just be too overcrowded by the time you decide to open the door ?.
=================================================================================

Full article here:
http://www.otelafrica.com/gnp-rise-of-the-wisps

Mohammad Patel is the Chief Executive Officer of O-Tel Telecom, a South African based Licensed National Telecom Service Provider

Economically handling customer complaints


——————–

 €œEven though the percentage of complainants who behave unreasonably is relatively small

(generally between 2-6%) they still use up a disproportionate amount of resources, time and

energy from a company resulting in high stress to staff members. €

~Australian Parliamentary Ombudsman   (2009)

——————–

Bad Service is always a key topic. Although my opinion is that service from South African private enterprises has improved considerably over the years, it can still do better. The fact is that although we are service providers, we’re also consumers who rely of service from other suppliers. So we should as often as possible put ourselves in the customers shoes. A happy customer only spells out better profits.

 

A general internet service company’s procedure for handling complaints has four stages.

 

At first, the customer gets a very cordial hearing, as the problem is most likely wrong setup in the router or software. You simply go through the router settings and reset passwords. If it is upstream network downtime, it is merely a heads up that a certain part of the network/service is down and your technical team has to look into rectifying it. In most cases, the customer is advised to study any instructions that came with the equipment/service and/or told that the apparent malfunction very likely temporary.

If it seems serious, the advice is to be patient whilst you seek an update from the upstream provider or return the hardware for repairs/exchange. Customers who persist are told the ticket has been escalated so that  €œwe can look into the problem more seriously. €   It is found that most times the ticket is simply overlooked, and no action is taken unless the customer presses the complaint. About half do not as by then the service is back up and running.

——————–

“He who will not economize will agonize.”
~Confucius

——————-

At the second stage, customers who actually press complaints are asked what would satisfy them, then offered a minimal adjustment. The amount never exceeds the company’s profit. There is no attempt to judge the merits of a complaint unless that offer is refused and the customer shows real determination for example, by threatening legal action.

 

That leads to the third stage, where a superior from the main office would step in, examine the complaint and the facts, and try to satisfy the customer with no more than he or she would be likely to win in court.

——————-
“We all wish we had a HELP button on our keyboard where by pressing it will fix all our computer problems. Unfortunately this is a feat impossible to achieve.”

~Mohammad Patel, O-Tel Telecom
——————-

If that fails, the fourth and final stage is to ask the company’s legal counsel for advice on minimizing total anticipated costs, including legal fees.

 

The rationale for all this is that it is economically necessary to be somewhat evasive in handling complaints. It is via experience to know that many complaints are either caused by the customer’s failure to read and follow directions, or are unreasonable or fraudulent. A legitimate complaint should be rectified soonest, as it most likely will affect other clients.

 

If your network and infrastructure is maintained adequately, you will have very little problems. It is the suppliers responsibility, not yours, to resolve any major problems resulting from defects in the service.   Your end is to ensure that your device, equipment and last mile connectivity is working and uptime always up-kept.

Customers whose complaints have substance are likely to press them. Since not only satisfying every demand for an adjustment but even examining every complaint’s merits would be too expensive, the first two stages try either to get the customer to drop the matter or, if necessary, resolve it at minimal cost.

These procedures has kept litigation to a minimum and resulted in very few interventions on customers’ behalf by the state’s Consumer Affairs Division. Management should think this indicates the policy is reasonably fair.

Tips and Advice in Handling  Customer  Complaints

1. Actively encourage feedback from  customers – including  complaints if they are dissatisfied.

2. Establish a clear  complaints-handling  procedure; ensure that all employees who come into contact with  customers understand it.

3. Be polite and sympathetic; listen to what the  customer  has to say.

4. Take ownership of the  complaint; give your name as a contact even if you will have to involve others in resolving the  complaint.

5. Establish the facts; consider whether any internal investigation is needed to gather further information.

6. Record the details of the  complaint, including when it was made,  customer  name and contact details. A support ticket system is ideal for this.

7. If possible, deal with the  complaint  immediately; if necessary, agree a deadline for getting back to the  customer.

8. Carry out any necessary further investigations.

9. If the  complaint  has potentially significant legal consequences, contact your legal adviser.

10. If there is a long delay, keep the  customer  informed of progress.

11. Once you have established that the  complaint  is justified, make appropriate restitution; apologise for your error.

12. Be prepared to reject  unreasonable  complaints or  unreasonable  demands, but in a positive way: explain what you can offer.

13. If appropriate, take internal action to prevent the problem recurring: for example, training staff or improving systems.

14. Follow up by contacting the  customer  to check that the  complaint  has been satisfactorily resolved.

 


Do’s & Don’ts

Do:

Encourage feedback.

Be polite and sympathetic.

Take ownership of any problems.

Deal with  complaints as quickly as possible.

Address the underlying causes of problems.

 

Don’t:

Be defensive.

Pass the buck.

Make excuses.