Arif Shaikh, Group Chief Risk Officer, First Abu Dhabi Bank Image Credit: Supplied

At First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), we are proud of our track record in protecting our customers from fraud and in adopting global best practices in our banking operations. In recent weeks, however, the number of fraud cases globally has increased sharply – some security firms stating by as much as 600 per cent – as criminals seek to use the Covid-19 outbreak to open new lines of attack. Unfortunately, “one man’s misery is another man’s fortune”. As digitisation becomes a necessity these days, customers must be aware of the increased risk and ensure that they are protected from such schemes.

A common approach is to contact customers who have recently switched to using online or mobile banking platforms because of Covid-19, with phishing attempts claiming to be from a bank’s customer support team. There are also reports of fraudsters claiming to offer help with financial relief measures, including postponing loans or credit card payments. Another method involves asking a client to make a payment for Covid-19 testing or treatment, or for an opportunity to invest in a new cure or vaccine. As many people now “work from home” the call could be from someone impersonating your Technology Department asking for details about your personal computer.

In most attacks, fraudsters will try to trick customers into providing their online account login details, or share a link that, if opened, will download malware that gives access to the victim’s computer or smartphone. They can be extremely convincing, perhaps impersonating an official organisation, or a bank, to give themselves a sense of legitimacy. They may approach by email, an SMS or messaging service such as WhatsApp, or a phone call.

The good news is that fraud attempts can be stopped in their tracks. At FAB, sophisticated near real-time monitoring technology can recognise suspicious transactions, backed by a dedicated team, who can take quick action as and when required.

Where a customer reports a possible fraud, call-centre staff are also empowered to take necessary measures to protect customers’ accounts. However, while the bank has strong controls in place, customers must be their own “first line of defence” by following a few very simple rules.

● Never share your password, PIN or a one-time password (OTP) with another person

● Be careful when posting financial and personal information on the internet

● Do not open suspicious emails or click on suspicious links

● Keep your devices updated with latest anti-virus and malware protection

It is also important to keep personal details shared with the bank up-to-date and for you to review your bank accounts on a regular basis, reporting suspicious activity immediately. Additionally, never pursue investment offers, or pay for a service based on an unsolicited call or e-mail, without carefully checking that they are genuine.

In these uncertain times we all share worries, for ourselves, our families, and our community. The risk of falling victim to fraud should not be one of them – as long as we are vigilant, careful, and work together to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.