Neustar Releases 2020 ‘State of Call Center Authentication’ Report

Caller identity remains a key concern for customer contact centers, with increased relevance to financial institutions in light of turmoil caused by COVID-19 pandemic

STERLING, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#NeustarNeustar Inc., a global information services and technology company and leader in identity resolution, has released its annual report on caller authentication in customer contact centers. The 2020 report, based on a recent survey of contact center professionals, indicates that awareness of newer authentication technologies is continuing to grow, though knowledge-based authentication (using callers’ knowledge of personal and account information to validate their identities) remains entrenched.

The report elaborates on the following key insights:

  • Awareness of authentication via pre-answer phone call analysis has increased to 77%, a level nearly as high as that of traditional KBA using account information (82%). Only 23% of survey respondents expressed a preference for authentication to be completed during an agent conversation, with 39% preferring authentication before the call is answered and 32% during use of the interactive voice response system.
  • There is a growing understanding of the inherent risks of KBA — risks that are amplified by the vast quantities of personal information available on social media and on the dark web as a result of data breaches. Companies in the financial services industry in particular report continued concern about account takeover attacks via the voice channel, considering that call center agents become increasingly susceptible to social engineering attacks as customers’ personal information becomes less secure.
  • The risk of account takeover is compounded by growth in the use of virtual calling services. This year, more survey respondents saw an increase in virtualized calls (70%) than in spoofing (65%). Neustar’s own customer data show that as many as 80% of account takeover attempts between September 2019 and February 2020 were made with virtual calling services, which allow criminals to make calls that will slip through spoof-detection systems. To combat this type of fraud, call centers will need to deploy tools that confirm each calling device’s uniqueness, authenticity, physicality and risk of fraud.
  • Although 54% of survey respondents said they were “somewhat” or “very” confident that KBA alone can accurately authenticate their callers, their stated plans suggest otherwise: just 17% plan to continue using only KBA in the year ahead. The largest share (34%) plan to supplement KBA with one new technology approach to create two-factor authentication, while others plan to replace KBA with a new single-factor technology approach (12%) or a new two-factor technology approach (15%). Just 23% reported being unsure of their plans for multifactor authentication, the lowest share since the survey began in 2018.

The issues addressed in the Neustar report are particularly relevant to financial institutions today, in light of the turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Neustar observed a significant increase in bank contact center call volumes in March, as the spread of the novel coronavirus led to branch closures around the country, followed by new daily call volume records in April. One retail bank’s customer service center experienced three days with more than a million calls per day in April, reportedly due to consumers calling to check on the status of their direct-deposit government relief checks.

High call volumes, with associated long wait times for customers, increase the costs of relying on identity interrogation for authentication — in terms of both customer experience and agent time. The onboarding of less-experienced employees to accommodate these larger call volumes, combined with the typical crisis-related spike in fraudsters’ attempts to take advantage of the chaotic situation, means greater risk of account takeovers via social engineering. Together, these factors further underscore the importance of streamlined, effective caller authentication.

Changes to authentication methods — particularly the adoption of multifactor authentication approaches incorporating newer technologies such as pre-answer phone call analysis — can enable organizations to simultaneously improve customer experience, operational efficiency and fraud-fighting ability. The Neustar survey responses suggest that organizations are preparing to revisit and revise their approach to maintaining privacy while protecting customer relationships in the year ahead.

The 2020 State of Call Center Authentication report is based on a February 2020 survey of 137 professionals working in contact center operations, customer experience, sales, marketing, information technology and fraud operations. The participants represented a range of industries, with just over half in financial services and technology.

To access the full report, click here.

About Neustar

Neustar is an information services and technology company and a leader in identity resolution providing the data and technology that enable trusted connections between companies and people at the moments that matter most. Neustar offers industry-leading solutions in marketing, risk, communications, security and registry that responsibly connect data on people, devices and locations, continuously corroborated through billions of transactions. Neustar serves more than 8,000 clients worldwide, including 60 of the Fortune 100. Learn how your company can benefit from the power of trusted connections here:


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