That’s where the money is

May 2017 Financial (Industry), Security Services & Risk Management

Banks are still the source of money for criminals, even though the target has expanded to include ATMs and bank cards which are robbed via various mechanisms, and companies and individuals.

Kalyani Pillay, CEO of the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) says that criminals follow the money and as many of our transactions have shifted online, they have followed and are well versed in how to keep on stealing money, not only directly from banks, but also from companies and individuals.

Pillay notes that identity theft is still an important aspect of criminals’ efforts. This type of crime can be used to access personal and corporate bank accounts without even requiring a gun.

SABRIC has embarked on numerous efforts to assist banks and their customers in preventing financial crime over the years. One long-running project has been conducted in collaboration with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and the major banks in South Africa. This project saw many banks starting to use fingerprint biometrics as part of the process of identifying people.

When discussing the various ways criminals try to get their hands on money these days, excluding the armed approach, Pillay explains that there are various methods they use and that these seem to come in phases. As soon as one method meets more resistance, criminals opt for another that’s a bit easier.

Some of these methods include phishing, where an email that looks as if it comes from someone you know asks or authorises you to make a payment or pass on some sensitive information (like bank access information).

Then there’s vishing, where someone calls you pretending to be from your bank or a company and asks for similar information over the phone. These days, Pillay adds that we can add Smishing to the collection, where criminals use SMS messages to try the same tricks.

Pillay says criminals are constantly trying new ways to get information that would get them into other people’s bank accounts. Many victims of such crimes blame bank or other companies’ insiders for selling or giving away their information to these crooks, but all too often people provide the information themselves without realising it – even through simple behaviours like clicking on an email. And criminals are well informed, able to target specific people in a company with specific requests that make their attempts look quite professional.

And then there’s the old favourite used to collect card information, skimming. A simple and quick swipe of a debit or credit card, even while appearing to pay for something is enough to collect information criminals can use.

SABRIC runs various campaigns throughout the year to create awareness of the above and other crimes, assisting people in making the right decisions when it comes to corporate and personal financial information. The organisation’s website is regularly updated with new information about the latest scams and what to be on the lookout for.

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