Noah Rafalko: Who’s Got Your Number? A Better Way to Fight Phone Scammers

The answer to the problem of phone number security lies in a digital identity solution powered by the blockchain.

Noah Rafalko: Who’s Got Your Number? A Better Way to Fight Phone Scammers
The author of this Expert Opinion is Noah Rafalko, CEO of TSG Global, Inc.

Whoever thought our mobile phone numbers would become such an important part of our identity? Even if/when we change service providers or move to another area code, our special numbers come with us. Want discounts at Safeway? Just pop in your ten numbers when prompted.

Think of all the ways you use your mobile number at establishments you frequent. Then think of how many people and organizations know you by these numbers. There are probably way more than you could even list.

The pandemic accelerated the sharing of our mobile identities as more of us ditched landlines at our offices and savored the freedom of working from home or the golf course. In the U.S. alone, over 700 million phone numbers are registered. And, back in 2019, Juniper Research estimated that number to boom – with an 800 percent growth in mobile identifiers by 2024.

New concerns about identify theft and fraud

Unfortunately, the widespread use and availability of your phone number can also lead to Identity theft and fraud. Last year, U.S. citizens received over 4 billion robocalls or unwanted calls, according to the FCC. Javelin Strategy and Research estimates that consumers lost $43 billion when criminals used robocalls and phishing emails to steal valuable data.

One writer called a phone number “a skeleton key into your entire life online.” There’s no shortage of hackers who understand the brilliant simplicity of this concept; and they keep on profiting from it.

The private sector and government, however, have been a slow to respond, and legislation such as STIR/SHAKEN fails to address the myriad of ways fraudsters use to wreak havoc. There was only a minor drop in unwanted calls after the new law passed this past summer: A mere speed bump for evildoers. Legislation is not a long-term solution.

And what about data? While the government is willing to regulate the voice function of phone calls, they say “not my business” when it comes to texting. Your number is unregistered and unregulated for texting.

Clearly, we need to do more to protect every aspect of our phone numbers now that they play a critical role in our identity.

Bring the blockchain to the robocall fight

The answer to this overarching problem of phone number security lies in a digital identity solution powered by blockchain technology. An identity solution enables customers to be confident that the communication is truly from enterprises they know and trust.

With a digital Distributed Ledger Technology or Self-Sovereign Identity solution, enterprises can claim and maintain the identity associated with their phone numbers, since these numbers are the most common unique identifiers. By creating a digital identity and giving permission to trusted parties, enterprises avoid the inefficiencies from creating and duplicating the same information with multiple communication providers and independent databases.

Storing an immutable record of consented communications also provides consumers and brands the means to communicate through their trusted digitized identity credentials.

We need to solve the issue of protecting self-sovereign identity (SSI), and a blockchain solution is the key. Blockchain offers a win-win-win solution where enterprises can regain control of their trusted brands while we welcome the information we need and want into our lives without fear of being scammed.

We invite enterprises, communication providers and government entities to join the community and a chain of custody to reduce or even eliminate fraudulent activities.

Noah Rafalko is founder and CEO of TSG Global, Inc., which provides voice, messaging and identity management services for SaaS companies and large enterprises. Rafalko has recently created the first enterprise telecom identity solution called Telephone Number ID. TNID creates a secure and trusted chain of custody record between enterprises and their vendors, customers and regulators using blockchain and cryptography based on an awarded patent. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

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