Threats of frauds and scams are among the most important challenges facing banks and their customers today. The accelerated shift towards digital banking services during COVID-19 has coincided with an upsurge in sophisticated fraud attempts, with the proportion of online fraud attempts using previously unseen tools or techniques going up from 20 per cent to 35 per cent during the pandemic, according to research.
Banks in the UAE have continuously been working on identifying and mitigating upcoming fraud threats, and we have been running a concerted campaign, with several of our strategic partners, to educate the public about financial fraud and scams.
Customers need awareness
Perhaps the most notable example of this commitment to customer education is the National Fraud Awareness Campaign, a first-of-its-kind initiative by UBF in partnership with Central Bank of the UAE, Abu Dhabi Police, Dubai Police, and TDRA. The campaign was launched in 2020 seeking to equip bank customers with the facts and tools they needed to protect themselves from fraud, and is currently running in its second phase until the end of 2021.
With a view to helping customers protect their confidential information, we provide some insights into new techniques used by fraudsters to steal from banks and customers, along with some simple tips that could go a long way towards keeping bank customers safe online. Some of these techniques and tips are:
* Social engineering fraud, which refers to fraudsters manipulating people into sharing their sensitive and personal information over social media, through calls or emails, or by having you click on pop-up banners that claim your computer is infected.
Never share your personal information with anyone over social media, phone or email, and do not click on any suspicious links or attachments.
• Email fraud/business email compromise: Whenever you receive an email from unknown IDs asking you to redirect funds or stating that your account or card has been blocked, ask yourself the following questions:
* Is your name mentioned in the email?
* Are you marked as BCC in the email?
* Is there even a slight mismatch between the sender’s email ID and the email ID of your bank?
Remember, your bank will never ask for your personal/financial details this way:
• Lottery fraud/advance fee scam: Avoid communications that say that you have won a lottery and ask you for an advance payment to claim the prize. Such messages have scam written all over them.
SIM swap fraud: If your mobile phone appears to not be connected to any network, do not immediately assume that this is a network outage. Instead, make sure you call your service provider first, before ruling out any fraud attempts.
• Magic ink fraud: Never issue a blank cheque, and always fill in details with your own pen.
• Data privacy: Create strong passwords and do not download unknown apps.
• Phone fraud: Always remember that your bank will never ask for your personal details or credentials over the phone.
* Access your mobile banking app only from a secured public wi-fi:
* Never share your user IDs, passwords, or OTP with anyone; and
* Avoid clicking on unknown links and refrain from downloading random apps or attachments.
Shop smart: Take a few precautions before making a purchase online, like keeping your user IDs and passwords secured, shopping only on authenticated e-commerce websites, and selecting a secure payment transaction channel.
Social smart: You can keep your social media accounts private as well as secure through declining unknown friend requests, using different and strong passwords for each social site and updating your passwords frequently. You would also do well to limit the personal information that you post on social sites.
Moving with technology: Keep the operating system, browsers, antivirus, and other software of your phone and computer up-to-date with the latest security patches.
Getting customers to adopt good cyber hygiene habits in their everyday life can have a surprisingly large impact in preventing fraud. To cite just one example of how fraud awareness can play a crucial role in keeping your money safe, the number of SIM swap scams in the UAE – a seemingly intractable problem – decreased from hundreds of cases in 2019 to just a single case last year.
That was due to cooperation between UBF and several strategic partners, such as TRA, as well as due to heightened customer awareness. This speaks underscores how an aware and empowered customer can indeed effectively fight fraud attempts.
-- Charanjeet Singh, Chairperson, UAE Banks Federation (UBF) Fraud Prevention Committee.