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FRAUD IN FINANCE: WHO CAN DEFEND OUR DIGITAL IDENTITY?

By Joe Bloemendaal, Head of Strategy at Mitek

 

Over the last few months, we have been presented with more e-commerce and online offerings than ever before. From online shopping to virtual gym classes, the pandemic has accelerated the move towards a fully digital world. Unfortunately, this growing digital presence leads to a rise in cyber-attacks, too, and more specifically, fraud.

Even before the mass lockdown, fraud cases were predicted to be on the rise. According to Juniper Research, online payment fraud for businesses in e-commerce, banking services, money transfer and airline ticketing were suspected to lose over $200 billion to online payment fraud between 2020 and 2024. The recent growth in digital services and accounts, and advanced technology like AI, is further driving the frequency of these fraudulent activities. It’s safe to say the finance sector is in unchartered territory.

With easy access to an abundance of consumer data, advanced computational power and tools, it is becoming easier for cyber-criminals to completely take over legitimate accounts. So, how can we stay protected against these attacks? The first step is to understand what these fraudsters are after and this is often easy to overlook. Social media allows people to stay connected, but it also exposes a large amount of personal information, making people’s digital identity readily accessible to fraudsters. At every corner, fraudsters are lurking behind the screen trying to trick banks by stealing people’s details in order to access their hard-earned savings or turning to other methods of phishing scams.

Joe Bloemendaal

Thankfully, with the help of unique identifiers and usage-patterns, it is possible for banks and fintechs to verify a user’s digital identity – making sure that they are who they claim to be when participating in a digital interaction. But for financial services institutions to stop fraud in its tracks, they need to begin with understanding how to protect our ‘digital identities’.

But first, what is a digital identity?

A digital identity can be defined as “a body of information about an individual or organisation that exists online.” But the reality is that not many understand what really makes up a digital identity so how can they protect something they don’t understand. Is it our social media profile? Our credit score or history? Is it contained within a biometric passport?

This confusion means many are also concerned about the level of access a digital identity exposes to potential fraudsters. Once a hacker has our personal details, how much of ‘us’ can they really access? In the US, we found that 76 percent of consumers are extremely or very concerned about the possibility of having their personal information stolen online when using digital identities; but 60 percent feel powerless to protect their identity in the digital world.

This is mainly because many trust in their old methods and devices for security control – passwords, security questions, and digital signatures. But as modern security techniques evolve, these methods are no longer able to protect us on their own.

More advanced and secure methods of identity verification mirror modern social media habits. Most of us are familiar with taking selfies. Now, technology can match that selfie to an ID document such as a driving licence, turning a social behaviour into a verifiable form of digital identification. A simple, secure process enables people to gain access to a variety of e-commerce and digital banking services, without a long and friction filled ‘in-person’ process.

Even in the case of a compromised photo ID or stolen wallet, we can re-verify our digital credentials once we have our paperwork back in order – and restore a digital profile to full health.

But this doesn’t address the question of who is responsible for our digital identity – who will protect the long-term health and protection of our digital ‘twin’?

Historically, governments have proven to be poor custodians of their citizens’ data, given the loss of 25 million tax records, including payroll information, in the not-so-distant past. Some of the world’s biggest companies are not immune either, being held responsible for countless data breaches over the years.

 

Balancing trust and control

As such, some believe citizens should be responsible for their own digital identities, making them ‘self-sovereign’. The ambition is to free our own personal information from existing databases and prevent companies from storing it every time we access new goods or services. Data controls such as GDPR and CCPA are a start – policing and regulating how companies use, control, and protect data.

However, ‘self-sovereign’ identities could only become mainstream if governments relinquish their sole responsibility for issuing and storing our identity information. It will also require new technologies, such as blockchain, to gain traction and be trusted. A cultural shift will be paramount, too.

Some suggest that instead of the rise of ‘self-sovereign’ identities, we’ll see some of the industry’s biggest players emerge instead. We’re already used to verifying our identities through Google and Facebook, using them to speed up registrations or access new services. Could those tech giants become our digital identity guardians?

Or would we rather entrust our digital identities to financial companies such as Visa or Mastercard, who have been looking after our financial transactions for decades, historically taking on the risk for us, and are now able to process disputes and stop unauthorised withdrawal of funds even faster? Could the financial sector’s role become even more important when it comes to our digital identity?

It’s clear that taking good care of one’s digital identity is a fine balance between trust and control. Security is also a personal thing, and what is right for one may not suit another. One thing is for certain: identity is the essence of the human being, so guardianship should be hard-earned.

Both businesses and individuals have a part to play when protecting our digital twins. With the help of digital identity verification and cybersecurity technologies, we can make self-sovereign identities a reality – if it works for our financial sector, and it’s what the people want.

Finance

ENLISTING TECHNOLOGY TO HELP FIGHT FINANCIAL CRIME

By Rachel Woolley, Director of Financial Crime Fenergo

 

Million-dollar properties, private jets and parties on luxury yachts with celebrity friends. Although it might sound like the plot for a new reality series, this is what corruption, illicit funds and political connections can buy at the expense of ordinary citizens.

Following an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)[1], thousands of leaked documents, known as the Luanda Leaks, suggest that the daughter of Angola’s former president, Isabel Dos Santos, acquired her enormous wealth through favourable access to lucrative deals. These activities were often to the detriment of Angola’s poorest citizens.

We’ve also started to see the application of unexplained wealth orders (UWO) in the UK, with the first UWO issued in 2018. The latest UWOs relate to the grandson of Kazakhstan’s former president, Nurali Aliyev[2], is currently being investigated by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) to explain where he got the money to buy a £80 million house in one of London’s most expensive neighbourhoods. It is thought that the funds used to buy the property have criminal origins.

But these aren’t isolated stories. There have been countless examples in recent years of how corruption, fraud and political connections has resulted in billions of dollars being stolen worldwide in countries such as Brazil, Malaysia, Gabon, Russia and many more.

A recent report by Fenergo found that regulators have issued over $36 billion in AML/KYC and sanctions-related fines (and rising) since the financial crisis. This staggering number shows that related financial institutions had inadequate policy, processes, procedures and systems, in addition to poor governance and oversight in many cases.  Interestingly, a similar report found that the vast majority of these regulatory costs were associated with an AML/KYC-specific labour force.

Not surprisingly, the methods used to hide the illicit wealth are pretty similar; invoice fraud, suspicious transfers, offshore companies and complex ownership structures to disguise beneficial ownership of assets and property. Another commonality is the detrimental impact this has on some of the poorest citizens in these countries and the global economy.

But what can we learn from these scandals? And perhaps more importantly, what can be done?

For financial institutions, the importance of leveraging technology to unwrap complex hierarchies, related parties and identifying individuals with political connections cannot be understated. Understanding the ownership and control structure when onboarding entities is critical, along with robust screening practices to enable sufficient oversight of the relationship, accounts and transaction activity. Enhanced due diligence measures must be applied to politically exposed persons (PEPs), their immediate family members and known close associates. Relationship patterns are also significant, as the same service providers are often used, as was the case with Mossack Fonseca in the Panama Papers scandal.

It’s critical that financial institutions are vigilant in the detection and prevention of financial crime before it’s too late.  By automating KYC/AML compliance and leveraging rules-based technology, financial institutions can ensure that internal policies are fully in-line with constantly changing regulations across multiple jurisdictions.  However, human input will still be necessary when red flags are identified by the system.

 

Biography:

Rachel Woolley, Global AML Manager at Fenergo, has over 10 years’ experience in the Financial Services industry having worked primarily in the funds industry and retail banking. She has a strong background in regulatory compliance, particularly in the areas of anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing (AML/CTF).

Rachel holds a BSc (Hons) Degree in Applied Accounting from the Oxford Brookes University and is an ACCA Affiliate. She currently holds three professional designations; Licentiate of the Association of Compliance: Officers in Ireland (LCOI), Certified Financial Crime Prevention Practitioner (CFCPP) and Certified Data Protection Officer (CDPO).

[1]https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-51218501

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/mar/10/uk-issues-unexplained-wealth-order-over-kazakhstan-familys-house

 

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Business

CONSUMERS ARE READY FOR BIOMETRIC PAYMENT CARDS

Lina Andolf-Orup, Head of Marketing at Fingerprints

 

We’ve come a long way in the evolution of digital payments. Magnetic stripe cards, chip & PIN and contactless technology have all played a role in dethroning cash as ‘king of payments’, with many countries well on their way to becoming cashless economies. As with all tech innovation, though, consumer readiness is always the deciding factor in the crowning of new payments royalty.

Now there’s a new technology on the block, ready to help contactless offer even more value: the biometric payment card. In recent years, biometric payment cards have been steadily gathering momentum, currently being trialled by over 20 banks across the world, with the first commercial launch announced last year. A mass-market roll-out is imminent.

But with all the noise from the payments world, it’s important to answer the de facto question that’s key to any technology’s success: are consumers ready?

 

Lina Andolf-Orup

Contactless is (almost) king

Contactless has achieved great success globally, and are now seeing a steep increase across the world.

In addition to consumers being frustrated with having to remember a plethora of PINs and passwords, the current pandemic has also brought to light the unhygienic nature of cash and PIN-enabled payments. Now more than ever, consumers are eager to use a secure, convenient, and hygienic payment method. And contactless almost fits the bill.

Although consumers want to use their contactless card more often, security worries, payment experience frustrations, and the limiting payment cap are all preventing the card from reaching its full potential usage.

The missing link

This is where biometrics comes into play: the missing element that can take contactless into the era of worriless and limitless payments, and provide consumers an experience they expect in the 21st century. With consumers clear about what they want, let’s take a look at what’s top of their checklist and how biometrics can fill in the gaps to realize their ideal payment experience.

 

  1. Smarter, safer contactless. Just for you.

Security is a primary concern for consumers when it comes to contactless, with 38% of consumers citing security as the main reason they are hesitant to use the payment method. For older generations, this number rises to almost 50%.Yet with hygiene concerns at an all-time high, many consumers aren’t eager to use PIN-pads to secure their payments either. By moving the authentication onto the card itself, biometrics secure payments in a way that allows consumers to never touch a PIN pad again.

With the rise of data privacy concerns, consumers can rest assured that their biometric data never leaves the card and won’t be shared with third parties or cloud-based databases. Everything remains securely stored on the payment card itself.

 

  1. Let’s talk about UX

Although every generation is keen to use contactless more, millennials are especially eager to take greater advantage of this convenient payment method. 87% of millennials that own a contactless card use it regularly and three quarters are set to use it more often.

Biometrics bring additional trust to contactless payments, while keeping the same level of convenience, allowing consumers to make a secure payment in less than a second. And with a unified experience so you know what to expect every time you pay; not PIN code sometime, contactless another time, it always works the same no matter where you are in the world.

Because a biometric payment card does not need to be charged – it’s powered from the payment terminal in the same way traditional contactless is – there is nothing standing in the way of efficiency-loving consumers embracing this technology.

 

  1. Contactless made limitless

To offset the lack of PIN security, traditional contactless payments are capped. In light of the current hygiene concerns, countries around the world have already raised contactless payment caps in a bid to reduce PIN entry and cash use. But without any additional strong authentication, the limit has not been lifted completely anywhere to date. This is not only frustrating consumers, but our recent research found this was the primary frustration banks felt regarding contactless.

With the touch of a finger, biometrics brings the robust security needed to remove contactless payment limits altogether. Across contactless cards, mobile, wearables – and even future payment options – biometrics can provide a strong and seamless authentication solution to however we choose to pay or whatever contactless form or shape. Limitless payments with a harmonized UX, wherever consumers are, however much they spend, and wherever they pay: the perfect companion in the age of convenience.

 

  1. Tech nation

A less pressing, although by no means trivial matter, is that consumers are simply ready for something new. Over a third of consumers want to use more modern and personal payment cards, and biometrics sits alongside metal cards, tailored designs and other innovations to do just that. Not to mention that the standard contactless card, the last great innovation in card payments, is now over a decade old!

Featuring the latest fingerprint sensors and an advanced algorithm with AI, biometric payment cards not only meet the criteria for a modern and next-generation payment card but offer the most personal touch imaginable. Your fingerprint.

 

  1. Ready to roll…

We’ve arrived at a crucial point in the evolution of payments. With the technology tested and accredited in line with the rigorous standards of the payments ecosystem, the mass market adoption of this technology is just around the corner. But most importantly, consumers have never been more ready to embrace limitless and worriless contactless.

 

 

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