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39 per cent of UAE consumers surveyed admitting they have experienced an online fraud attempt. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: While almost four in 10 UAE consumers have experienced online fraud attempts in the past year, trust and usage of digital payments both in-store and online see no signs of ceasing as consumers still prefer them over cash, citing improved technology, and security measures as reasons why they still feel more secure with these methods of payment. These findings were revealed in the 2021 Stay Secure survey launched on Monday by Visa, Dubai Police, and Dubai Economy (DED).

Cash is unlikely to return to its previous high level of use

According to the study, the use of cash in the UAE continues to decline. While e-commerce and contactless payments have increased in popularity and use since the start of the pandemic, paying by Cash on Delivery (COD) has declined significantly (75 per cent), while the use of digital payments (contactless cards + mobile wallets) for payment online or on delivery has almost doubled (by an average of 98 per cent). Consumer feedback reinforces the belief that there is no reversal of this trend, with 40 per cent of consumers saying they are less likely to use COD and 45 per cent are more likely to use contactless payment methods in the future.

Trust driving consumer preference in digital payments, but some concerns remain

Nearly two-thirds of consumers (63 per cent) have high level of confidence in digital payments (contactless cards and mobile wallets) for shopping in-store and payment on delivery, an increase since the start of the pandemic. Top reasons consumers gave for their trust in contactless include convenience (60 per cent), speed (59 per cent), control (the card or mobile never leaves consumer’s hand during transaction) (46 per cent), avoiding human touch (56 per cent) and innovative way to pay (48 per cent).

Biometrically-verified payments — such as mobile wallets — also scored high with consumers with more than a third (67 per cent) saying it is secure, and 60 per cent saying it gives them complete control as it never leaves their hand in a transaction and eliminates the hassle of having to remember passwords.

Knowledge of the technology that protects digital payments is a driver of consumer trust. Among consumers who trust digital payments, a majority (52 per cent) said having knowledge of underlying security technologies that protect digital payments, such as tokenisation, helps build their confidence in cashless options. Those who do not have adequate levels of knowledge of the technology, still have lagging doubts about the safety of digital payments. For example, 47 per cent fear misuse of lost or stolen contactless cards mostly due to a lack of understanding of how the technology work (27 per cent). These findings reinforce the importance of continual education on safe digital payment practices among consumers to maintain their trust.

Consumers’ experience with fraud

The survey also sheds light on consumers’ experiences with fraud, with 39 per cent of UAE consumers surveyed admitting they have experienced an online fraud attempt. Around a quarter of consumers (27 per cent) have experienced phishing, while just under a fifth have experienced credit card fraud (19 per cent) and receiving counterfeit goods (17 per cent). In the event of fraud, informing the bank (67 per cent) or customer service (58 per cent) and changing their password/PIN (72 per cent) are the most important actions consumers are likely to take. As a testament to the trust consumers have in local law enforcement, half of UAE consumers said they would contact the authorities in the event of fraud.

Brigadier Jamal Salem Al Jalaf, Director of Criminal Investigation Department in Dubai Police, said, “As people spend more and more time online — including many for the first time, fraudsters are using this as an opportunity to exploit consumers’ fears and lack of knowledge. We strongly believe that government authorities, the private sector and local communities all have an important role to play in raising awareness among UAE residents.”

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Knowledge of the technology that protects digital payments is a driver of consumer trust. Image Credit: Supplied

Ahmad Al Zaabi, Director of Consumer Protection in Dubai Economy, said: “Shopping in Dubai presents a remarkable opportunity for retail innovations as it involves a vast and varied customer demographics and businesses. The partnership with Visa enables us to track consumer behaviour and we are delighted to see confidence in digital payments rising steadily, which in turn will accelerate the ongoing digital transformation in Dubai.”

Neil Fernandes, Visa’s Head of Risk for Middle East and North Africa, commented, “Consumers have fully embraced digital payments in the Covid-19 era but that does not come without risks. As consumers shift online, fraudsters have sought opportunities to exploit these changes. Our ongoing Stay Secure campaign is our effort in bringing together all participants in the payments ecosystem to work together to advance efforts to educate consumers on how to stay vigilant, identify potential fraud, and what actions they should take if they are affected.”

The survey corresponds with the launch of Visa’s sixth annual “Stay Secure” social media campaign in partnership with Dubai Police and DED. The campaign reinforces safe digital payment practices and reminds consumers on how they can protect personal data even as they enjoy the benefits and convenience of e-commerce and contactless payments. The UAE Stay Secure webpage also includes fraud prevention tips for consumers and information on security features of digital payments.