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Voiceprinting: Victrio's Fraud-Fighting Watchdog

Voiceprinting: Victrio's Fraud-Fighting Watchdog

Victrio is battling fraud with voiceprinting. Its technology matches voices to a database of voice profiles it's building of known and suspected fraudsters. The company monitors incoming calls and flags those it deems a match to a voice in the database.

By Vivian Wagner
11/13/08 4:00 AM PT

Credit card fraudsters beware: Victrio might be tracking you. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company recently released a new system aimed at identifying, analyzing and storing the voiceprints of identity thieves.

"We're building a nationwide database of bad guys' voiceprints," Victrio's founder and CEO, Tony Rajakumar, told the E-Commerce Times.

Victrio's service involves mapping the sounds associated with individual voices, storing the voices of fraudsters, and then comparing these voices with the ones on incoming calls.

"Everybody's voice is unique, because everybody's vocal tract is unique," Rajakumar said. "It tries to model the shape of your vocal tract."

How to Catch a Thief

When a company contracts with Victrio to track and monitor its incoming calls, customer calls will be routed through Victrio's system, so that it will have access to the calls.

If an agent thinks a caller is suspicious -- someone trying to use someone else's credit card, for instance -- the agent can flag that call and automatically enter it into Victrio's database of suspicious callers.

Calls also get saved in its database when there are confirmed cases of identity theft or other thievery. Victrio's system analyzes these calls, assigning each voice a number based on its distinctive characteristics. The system then compares incoming calls with the voices of known and suspected fraudsters, informing agents when there's a likely voice match with a bad guy.

"We can tell them, 'This person sounds like the person who defrauded you two weeks ago,'" Rajakumar said.

Ultimately, it's up to the agent or the agent's company to compare these voices and see if there's a match, but Victrio provides the tools for this initial red flag.

Innocent people could conceivably be flagged by the Victrio system, but the company has safeguards in place to make sure that it or its clients can remove wrongly flagged people.

"There's a possibility of a false alarm," Rajakumar said. "That's why there's a human element in the process."

The decision about whom to decline and whom to trust will not be made entirely by a computer, and agents can always do a "soft decline," meaning they won't turn down the sale, but they might ask for further verification of the caller's identity, such as a copy of a driver's license.

New Directions

Voiceprinting isn't a new technology; it has been highly developed over the last decade by companies such as Nuance and RSA. Most voiceprinting databases and systems, however, focus on voice authentication -- matching a voice to a previously recorded voice to identify a person and allow them access to an account.

Victrio's service, however, focuses on building a database of the voices of suspicious, rather than legitimate, voices. Victrio will then analyze and interpret the information it gathers in a highly specialized way, using its proprietary methods.

"The difference is that we slice up the database into pieces" Rajakumar said. "We would know which slice we need to go to and we search just within that slice."

Victrio also promises to build a large, infinitely slice-able database, with more voices added as more companies sign up for the service. Rajakumar sees the market for his service expanding, since tough economic times make it more important than ever for companies to guard against fraud.

"I like what they're doing," Judith Markowitz, a speech industry analyst specializing in voice biometrics, told the E-Commerce Times. "Fraud is moving from the Internet to the telephone, and this is something that's sorely needed."

Rajakumar is banking on companies seeing the value of Victrio's service to their bottom line, particularly in tough economic times.

"There's a lot of fraud out there," Rajakumar said. "Especially in this economy, companies are going to look for ways to increase their margin by putting in systems like this."


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