NICE Launches Voice Authentication Tech to Catch Call Center Fraud

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NICE Systems (NICE) is launching a suite of services to help catch criminals in a place where banks have previously focused less on security and more on customer service — call centers.

The Israeli company is using biometric technology to screen calls and recognize bad guys' voices after they've been flagged. The Contract Center Fraud Prevention software also hedges against fraudsters by mapping patterns of speech that regularly show up in a criminal's pitch to defraud a bank employee (that could be shouting at an agent, or trying to change an address).

All of this serves as a cue to officials to either stop the call, or catch the fraudster in the act of attempting to move cash without permission. NICE is selling the service with the aid of its subsidiary, NICE Actimize.

Steve Ellis, executive vice president at Wells Fargo, recently told BTN that the bank is using technology of this kind to catch "bad actors" calling into its wire room, to prevent fraudulent wire transfers. (Ellis did not share which product the bank is using.)

"What we've seen over the past year or so is an increase in how criminals are leveraging the call center to perpetuate their schemes," says Ben Knieff, NICE Actimize's director of financial crime product marketing. "We are seeing them leverage the call center, in addition to what they are doing online to ultimately piece together a far broader fraud."

NICE is working with several "large" banks that began rolling out the system late last year. It is in trials with others as well, Knieff says.

Typically, he says, a hacker might break into bank customer's online account, piecing together enough clues from tax information, past statements and social networking sites to trick a bank employee into authorizing a wire transfer. The con is a form of social engineering.

NICE's method to hedge against this particular type of crime is unique, says Brian Riley, a senior research director in the retail banking and cards practice at CEB TowerGroup.

"I think that over the long term it could definitely be a game changer," he says. "I can see this really fitting in well with a high-end cash management account, the people that need the ultra high service. But it can be streamlined to work all the way down to the" regular retail customer.

NICE has been working on the system for the past year and a half, says Ori Bach, the company's director of solution management and interactions optimization. 

NICE is also evaluating industries other than banking, such as e-commerce, as potential markets for its new service.

"There is just this fast-paced arms race going on" among criminals, Bach says.

After all, he says, just as quickly as banks update their systems, fraudsters come up with new ways to bilk their victims.

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