Voice Biometrics Newest Anti-Fraud Tool


The next time you contact your credit card issuer’s call center, you may become part of their newest weapon in the war against fraud: voice-recognition software that runs calls through advanced biometrics to identify criminals.

A voice biometric, or voiceprint, is a numerical representation of the sound, pattern and rhythm of an individual’s voice. Like any other biometric, including fingerprints, it is unique to that individual and considered to be far more secure than a username, password or PIN.

Voiceprint technology, reported on recently by, is still in its infancy, but that hasn’t stopped major financial institutions like USAA, Barclays, Citibank and Wells Fargo from utilizing it as an authentication tool for authorizing payments and other interactions. Healthcare providers and governments are also adopting voiceprinting for its convenience and security features.

The online article cites statistics from Pindrop Security that financial institutions have seen a 30 percent rise in phone fraud since 2013, and that one in every 900 calls to a credit card company is fraudulent. According to Pindrop, companies have invested so significantly in securing their websites that fraudsters are shifting to easier targets like call centers.

“Armed with just a couple pieces of information, cunning fraudsters can pose as an accountholder and gain access to account information,” the article states. “From there, they can log into a cardholder’s account online to obtain a new card or make purchases.”

Pindrop’s Phoneprinting technology works in real time to calculate a risk score for each incoming call based on 147 different characteristics, including frequencies, type of phone being used and where the call originates. If the call scores as a high risk, the call center representative can follow established internal procedures to authenticate the caller’s identity. In some cases they rely on a database of recorded voices from previous calls that were classified as fraudulent for comparison purposes.

Citibank has been using voice biometrics authentication since late last year for its U.S. Citi-branded credit cardholders, automatically verifying their identity within the first few seconds of a call.  “It can save time. We move from a ‘who are you?’ experience to ‘how can I help you?’” explains Andrew S. Keen, chief administrative officer of global consumer operating functions. Citibank reports that more than 430,000 customers had enrolled in the program by March of this year.

Another solution, Israel-based Nice Systems, uses a process known as “whitelisting” that validates a caller’s identity simply by the sound of their voice. It analyzes voice characteristics like tone, pace and pitch to create a “print” of the voice that’s used to compare with the next time the customer calls.

So, voice biometrics is one of the newest safeguards against credit card fraud used by financial institutions and credit card companies. For consumers and merchants, there are several other new technologies that fight the battle against data breach at the point of sale. These include two-factor authentication solutions like Apple Pay® (which uses fingerprint biometrics and is based on NFC technology) and EMV® (or chip card, the new standard for payment cards in the U.S.). And, as always, merchants who accept payment cards are advised to achieve and maintain PCI compliance to help to ensure secure processing.

Apple Pay is a registered trademark of Apple Inc. EMV is a registered trademark of EMVCo LLC in the United States and other countries.


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