[VoiceOps] Audio cut-through and toll fraud - was "Letting a phone ring forever"

Stephen Sprunk stephen at sprunk.org
Sun Jul 31 20:19:37 EDT 2011

On 27-Jul-11 15:05, Jay Hennigan wrote:
> On 7/27/11 6:28 AM, Stephen Sprunk wrote:
>> I've had numerous customers ask for longer ringback timeouts on the calling side; it turns out that the above is a /very/ common practice for toll-free numbers.  The menus and hold music are all "ringback" messages, and the call isn't actually "answered" until a human agent gets on the line.  As many of us are unfortunately aware from our own experience calling customer (dis)service lines, that can easily exceed five minutes.
> The menus?  Really?
> I have had issues with this and as far as I can tell, the menus should
> not be considered ringing.
> We have had reports of DTMF failures navigating the IVR of toll-free
> numbers from time to time.  American Airlines is one specific example.

The most common complaints I've seen involve airlines; so far, I know
United, American and US Airways use this trick.  Banks are a distant
second, but most of them seem to do it too; they just generate fewer
complaints since most folks are only calling to check balances and such
via the automated system, rather than waiting for a human.

> What we have found is that there really isn't a DTMF issue, but that the
> forward audio path is being disabled until answer somewhere enroute.
> This is to me the correct behavior and was implemented at least a decade
> ago as a fraud prevention measure to prevent an endpoint from simply not
> providing answer supervision and conversing.

We tried that and quickly got smacked down by our customers, and I
suspect the same happened to other folks.

> So I could theoretically have a toll-free number that would have a menu,
> "Press 1 to hear an audiobook recording of 'War and Peace'; press 2 to
> hear the 1812 overture..." and run it for free?  Doesn't seem kosher.

The replacement "solution" is to put a hard limit on the amount of time
spent in ringback state.  We default to 180 seconds and get periodic
complaints; changing that to 300 seconds seems to make the complaints go


Stephen Sprunk         "God does not play dice."  --Albert Einstein
CCIE #3723         "God is an inveterate gambler, and He throws the
K5SSS        dice at every possible opportunity." --Stephen Hawking

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