Banks warning customers ahead of festive season
As there has been a rise in cyber fraud and attempts to defraud customers, banks are seeking to increase the awareness of their customers about the potential risks which lie ahead in the yuletide season.
The increased educational awareness comes amidst the rise in attempts by criminals to defraud customers with different scams and methods to swindle them of their hard-earned money. This has come in the form of phishing, smishing, social engineering and other creative attempts such as placing branded QR codes in automated banking machines (ABMs) and more fake pages imitating online banking portals. Apart from local fraud actors, there have been attempts as far as South Africa to trick customers locally with these schemes.
“In the last couple of months, however, we’ve seen a significant rise in the attempts for customers to be defrauded, in the thousands actually. Now, NCB has the largest customer base in Jamaica; over one million people depend on us to provide financial solutions for them. The probability that an NCB customer will get a fraudulent message is much higher than some of the other banks. That has contributed to this perception around NCB in particular,” said Sheree Martin, executive vice-president of the retail banking division at National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited (NCBJ), last Wednesday.
Even NCBJ interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bruce Bowen opined that years ago when he didn’t have an NCBJ bank account, fraudsters would send fake messages alerting him to something related to an NCBJ account in order to try and trick the executive. NCB Financial Group Limited interim CEO Robert Almeida has also noted that he himself has been inundated with fake text messages from fraudsters purporting to be a big five Canadian bank about confirming deposits to his account. He mentioned this to highlight that this is not isolated to Jamaica but is a global issue as more of the world transitions to the digital age of business.
These increased attempts to defraud customers has resulted in NCBJ making some significant changes in recent times to protect customers. This includes temporarily suspending SMS transaction alerts from October 13 and suspending the self-serve option to update (switch) their RSA SecurID token as of November 13. Customers can instead check their emails or the mobile application and get in contact with the customer support team to update their token.
The rise in attempts to compromise financial institutions also led to the Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS) temporarily closing all ABMs not inside a branch due to an increase in the detection of attempts to compromise its ABM network.
“Our experience is that our customers are in fact supporting some of the compromise just from a perspective of what a cyber fraud incident means. It is intended to get you to act, it is intended to scare you. So, what we have been doing is actively ramping up our customer education to alert customers to these scams which is what they are. The majority of instances where customer accounts are being compromised, the instances are related to phishing and smishing,” Martin said.
The executive also added, “We have no evidence that there is any compromise with NCB systems, but there is only so much we can do to protect some actions that you may take. That is why customer education, we believe, is the best defence and the primary weapon against your accounts being compromised in this manner.”
Martin highlighted that NCBJ has increased the avenues for persons to contact the bank if there are concerns such as customer care, live chat, mobile app and branch. The increased educational efforts include #FightingFraudFridays emails and promotional content to inform customers of what they should be aware of. The end of every email also states that NCBJ will not ask customers to confirm or share personal or financial information such as passwords, pins or CVV numbers via text, email or telephone calls.
“I’d also like to ensure that we reinforce the need for customers to be aware of NCB’s standard practices. The easiest thing to recognise in any message you get from us, or purported to be from NCB, is if it asks for any personal information, it’s not from NCB. I keep saying that to customers that you will get messages, you will see people alerting you to things that are happening on your account. Genuinely, you may be getting a call about did you write this cheque, is this signature yours. Those are standard reaching-out opportunities that we exercise. When you get a call or text that asks you to enter any personal information, it’s not NCB,” Martin expounded, highlighting that the bank is working with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and other law enforcement agencies.
Even Bank of Nova Scotia Jamaica Limited, in a press release, noted that Bank of Jamaica data references a 33 per cent increase in Internet banking fraud since 2018. The release mentioned the focus to double down on customer education to prevent them from falling victim to cybercrime schemes.
Tips to protect your money for the season:
Guard your PINs and passwords as you would cash. Don’t write them down anywhere or allow anyone to have access to them.
Be wary of unsolicited emails or phone calls requesting personal or financial information.
Don’t click on links in emails or messages from unknown sources, and don’t download attachments unless you are sure they are safe.
Use strong and unique passwords: Avoid using easily guessable passwords or ones that have been used before.
Check the address of websites before entering personal or financial information. Only use trusted websites.
Contact your bank immediately if you believe your account has been or could be compromised by a fraudster; there may still be time for action to be taken to prevent loss.