International internet phone fraud taking a costly toll

UK and US-based gangs are using the Internet to illegally access companies’ PABX systems and ring up hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of calls.

New South Wales police have confirmed “toll fraud” in Australia is a growing problem with at least seven companies being hit since November.

The problem is believed to have spread to Perth, although neither the WA Police Service nor Telstra’s fraud unit report any complaints.

One company only became aware of the fraud when it received a telephone bill for more than $750,000 for international calls made during a two-week period.

It appears the company’s PABX system was accessed remotely through the Internet. A number of features was then enabled on a phone extension that gave callers an outside line with international call capabilities.

These PABX hackers then on-sell the information to others.

The perpetrators of the Australian frauds have not been identified.

Telstra spokesman Richard O’Connell said the carrier had advised the Australian Communications Association and the Australian Telephone Users Group about the problem some years ago.

He said the problem was not strictly Telstra’s problem.

“There are more than 100 companies in WA that service PABX systems. Telstra is just one of them,” Mr O’Connell said. “If there are a particular number out of the ordinary calls that have been put through, we’ll advise the customer to conduct an internal toll audit and talk to their PABX servicers.”

KPMG forensic accounting branch WA manager Michael Cashman said there were several things companies could do to protect themselves from toll fraud.

These include:changing PABX and modem passwords on a regular basis; insist the company’s PABX service provider changes passwords whenever their staff cease employment; implement call accounting software to help detect early detection of toll fraud and ensure staff regularly monitor any large or unusual call traffic patterns; and find whether the company’s insurance policies cover this type of fraud.

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