Shutting off mule accounts to effectively tackle APP fraud
Cleber Martins, Head of Fraud Management for Banking at ACI Worldwide
Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud is on the rise. Losses from this type of fraud are expected to record an average CAGR of 21% from 2021-26 in the UK, US and India. To combat this rising threat, late last year the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) published new rules for banks and building societies regarding the reporting of APP fraud.
While losses won’t keep pace with the overall growth of real-time payments, banks shouldn’t be complacent regarding the risks. And though it’s true real-time payment channels have created a reality where fraudsters can succeed faster, it is mule accounts that allow them to keep getting away with it.
Fraudsters recruit mule accounts often through identity theft, turning a user’s account into a mule account without their knowledge, or by recruiting and targeting more vulnerable people on social media and other online communication channels. Thereby enabling criminals to hide their identity and quickly move stolen funds beyond the reach of banks and authorities, either through other mule accounts at different banks, or by buying crypto or NFTs. This is why, in order to effectively tackle APP fraud, banks need to shut off these mule accounts once and for all.
Banks battling back
Currently, most banks only tend to check outgoing transactions. This means that when a mule account suddenly receives money from numerous different accounts, following little to no activity, it’s usually not picked up. And this needs to change.
When battling back on scams, banks need to have the appropriate Know Your Customer (KYC) standards. Thus allowing them to monitor the money coming in as well as out of customers’ accounts and analyse the user behaviour of those accounts. This all helps banks to monitor for synthetic and stolen identities in relation to the money coming into accounts.
Being able to monitor and analyse all the data in real-time requires machine learning algorithms with rich contextual information. Put simply, these models are only as good as the signals and inputs they have been given. This means the more financial institutions – on both the sending and receiving end of the transaction – collaborate on signal sharing, the better they can target mule accounts. Additionally, more data and more accuracy should also lead to a decrease in the number of false positives and an improved user experience for legitimate customers.
To effectively shut off the supply of mule accounts, better collaboration and data sharing between banks and financial institutions are needed and with the introduction of the new PSR rules, we could see this quickly come to life.
Why receiving banks must be held accountable
There’s currently almost no risk at all for receiving fraudulent transactions into mule accounts, despite hosting the mule accounts used by fraudsters to receive stolen funds. This results in most banks doing little to no monitoring or analysis of the money coming into accounts. And little to no meaningful intelligence being exchanged between the two ends of a transaction. To turn the tide on scammers, this needs to change.
The Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) has said that in addition to putting mandatory reimbursement for most victims of APP scams, liability should be split equally between initiating and receiving banks. Unless the receiving bank can prove it has gone to greater lengths to do it’s checks, in comparison to the initiating bank, resulting in the initiating bank being held more financially liable.
This should incentivise a major shift in how banks monitor fraud activity, by increasing how they monitor the money coming in, in combination with behavioural profiling of the receiving accounts. Ideally, once the two sides of a transaction are working together, a “fraud DNA” can be constructed to enable more precise decision making. One strand of that DNA, in practice, would be the initiating end’s sending an intent for a real-time payment, including intelligence about the initiating account in metadata format. The receiving end would then correlate that with their own, thereby adding the second strand of intelligence to the DNA chain. Finally, a decision would be made as to whether to allow the transaction to be completed.
This increase in collaboration between banks, would symbolise the first step of building a framework that promotes the sharing of insights and could mean the end of mule accounts as reliable tools for fraudsters.
What future collaboration might look like
While banks play an important role, mule accounts are often created on social media, through the telecom industry, via email or even postal mail. Making APP fraud a cross-industry problem. This requires a next-level, cross-industry collaboration strategy, that sees solutions, techniques and intelligence being shared between banks and vendors, merchants, issuers and acquirers, and even with social media companies and telcos.
Ultimately, it’s about ensuring customers are better educated and protected and that banks perfect their monitoring of the money that comes in, as well as out, all while sharing that information. Building a true cross-industry framework will help deprive scammers of access to one of their main conditions for growth. As a result, we should begin to see the value of APP scam losses, as a proportion of the value of real-time transactions, drop.
How to identify the signs that your IT department need restructuring
Eric Lefebvre, Chief Technology Officer at Sovos
For firms to execute transformations and meet their overall vision, it is crucial that their CIOs are able to recognise the signs that their department is in need of some internal change. In the current economic climate, CIOs working to fulfil their organisation’s priorities and meet business goals might hesitate to acknowledge that their IT department needs restructuring, never mind be able to identify the signs.
However, these problems rarely fix themselves and organisational restructuring requires conviction and determination from leadership for it to occur successfully. So, what are some of the key signs that CIOs should look out for?
Struggling to keep up with industry demands
CIOs unsurprisingly are working in an extremely demanding environment at the moment. Meeting these evolving demands is crucial for companies. When demands are not met and not handled properly, this can have a lasting impact on organisational goals and objectives, and even impact the way in which transformations are put into effect.
Depending on the organisation’s structure, the way in which being unable to keep up with demands manifests itself can differ. Despite double digit reductions across the industry, the search for talent across the tech world continues, project costs continue to rise as the cost of labour has increased and schedules have been disrupted by significant attrition. Many companies will also find business costs, such as that of third-party software, are higher than planned and technology debt continues to pile up faster than it can be sunset.
Whilst leadership teams might dedicate their department’s attention on the factors discussed above, they may find that their team will fall short when it comes to timely deliverables and helping maintain your organisation’s tech stack and guide its business transformations. Looking beyond the immediate problems of high costs and considering an internal reshuffle may be the solution for many IT departments.
Internal conflict within the team
Organisational designs with underlying issues can cause constant friction, especially when they go unacknowledged. An IT department that lives in conflict will certainly be reflected in results and less than successful tech transformations. CIOs will find that by adopting an organisational design which works through staffing issues, will better innovate, especially if they can all work together.
Department leads should have a strong understanding of their team’s work environment and guide them through any long-term or potential problems. When an individual is working in a demanding or complex industry, working well with your team shouldn’t be the main impediment to innovation. By acting quickly to eliminate internal conflict, CIOs can better lead and ensure their team’s focus is entirely on producing more optimal outcomes.
Delays are commonplace
When a large amount of your team’s time is spent setting objectives, budgets and timelines for the projects they are working on, it is vital that they are met. When delays are coming from the IT department, they will inevitably hinder the development of any business transformation, especially if it prompts teams to spend excessive amounts of time rearranging budgets and timelines and therefore hindering innovation.
IT departments are a crucial aspect in many different parts of a company’s transformations, so remaining on track when it comes to timelines and innovation is critical to operational plans. If delays have become commonplace in an IT team, and external factors are impacting projects, CIOs should look at restructuring an IT department to solve these issues.
The strongest team relationships do not happen by accident and are the result of good planning, strong leadership and a motivated team. CIOs can ensure this by providing vision and long-term strategy with clear goals and objectives to produce high levels of quality output.
When internal issues are noticed in an IT department, and are noticeably impacting team morale or productivity, this should indicate the need for departmental restructuring. Be that due to an inability to meet market demands, issues with productivity and meeting deadlines or internal conflict, these issues all risk a department’s functionality and an organisation’s ability to achieve its goals. In short, don’t overlook the warning signs!
Top banking trends of 2023 and global outlook of banking and fintech for the year ahead
Author: Professor Marco Mongiello, Pro Vice-Chancellor, The University of Law Business School
You’d be forgiven for assuming that the global outlook for banking and fintech will be dominated by the usual suspects:
Artificial Intelligence – AI plays an increasingly prominent role in banking and fintech by enabling personalised services, fraud detection, predictive analytics, use of chatbots and robo-advisors.
Blockchain and Cryptocurrency – the secure, decentralised and swift system for financial transactions that blockchain has brought to the fore a few years ago, is now becoming ubiquitous. An increasing number of transactions are recorded through blockchains technology, primarily in the cryptocurrency market.
Digital Banking and fintech – accelerated by COVID-19 pandemic, the adoption of digital banking is a trend that will persist as customers have become accustomed to the convenience and efficiency of digital banking. Moreover, fintech enables access to financial services for previously underserved populations in developing countries or less affluent social groups in more affluent societies. This includes mobile banking services, peer-to-peer lending platforms, and microfinance solutions.
Open Banking – another global trend is the use of open APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that allow third-party developers to build apps to facilitate customers’ access to financial data and services from banks.
Nonetheless, the challenges posed by these rapid changes are reminders that banking, an industry that by its very nature needs to be conservative, risk averse and solid, wobbles on the unchartered grounds of fast and turbulent innovation, where entrepreneurship instead thrives. The underlying rationales of banking and fast digital innovation are not incompatible but do need solid operations and thought-through decision-making to avoid causing catastrophic collapses.
The recent examples of Silicon Valley Bank, Silvergate, FTX and Wirecard are stark reminders that digital entrepreneurship applied to banking doesn’t just bring to customers the visible transformation of valuable new services, but also dents (perhaps as an unexpected consequence) the rationale itself of the role of banks in the global economy. Moreover, the central banks’ ability to contain the effects of single banks’ defaults is no longer a certainty, as experienced just over a decade ago and more recently. The markets’ sentiments are hardly reassured by the commitments of even the most coveted players, such as the European Central Bank, the Federal Reserve, and the President of the United States himself.
Regulators are lagging behind and their attempts to catch up may cause further seismic shocks to the global banking system. For example, another trend that is emerging is one of artificial intelligence decision-centres (i.e., decentralised offices of banks which take autonomous decisions on behalf of investors) outside the most stringent regulatory environments, enabling banks to operate globally more efficiently and more competitively. And we can expect that regulators will close the gap either abruptly, as it is currently happening in China, where private banks are subject to an escalation of regulatory and monitoring restrictions, or more gradually as it is happening in Europe and in the US.
The questions we face, as individual or trade customers of our high street banks, as direct investors or clients of managed funds, are whether banking will become more user-friendly yet, for our daily use but riskier, too, or is it simply becoming more efficient, transparent and also safer.
I’m afraid that the answer is by no means an obvious one. Therefore, caution, level-headed decision- making and critical thinking have never been as important as these days. Whether you are looking after your family savings or growing your pension reserve, the imperative is that you keep updated about the providers of the financial services you rely upon as well as about the general regulations that apply to your financial transactions. This is where, for example, you need to be familiar with your rights in case of cyber fraud, as well as learning how to minimise the risk of becoming a victim thereof. Also, taking additional steps to evaluate the credibility, solidity and reliability of the online provider of that app that was recommended by a trusted friend, may prove a very good move.
Similarly, whether you are the CFO of a medium or large company, or are a sole trader wrestling with your own business’s finances, you need to reflect on what you really want from your bank in the first place. That is before you started to be swayed by the whirlpool of offers of ‘opportunities’ to multiply your financial investments. Chances are that your initial approach to your bank was dictated by either a need for financing your working capital, as per your budget and strategic plans, or to find a safe place for your temporarily idle liquidity. Perhaps you were also after some basic treasury services such as swift payments and debt collection. Maybe some other financial services closely related to your business operations, e.g. factoring. The advice is to give very careful consideration to services that are more remote from your business, because the trend for the next years is that more and more of those will be offered to you. But many new services will disappoint those who, sadly, cannot afford financial mishaps as they look to run and grow their business.
Efficient Ways Construction Firms Can Bring Down Costs In 2023
Consistent, high-quality construction projects being underway is often a sign of a thriving economy. The future of the US is...
How to identify the signs that your IT department need restructuring
Eric Lefebvre, Chief Technology Officer at Sovos For firms to execute transformations and meet their overall vision, it is...
Top banking trends of 2023 and global outlook of banking and fintech for the year ahead
Author: Professor Marco Mongiello, Pro Vice-Chancellor, The University of Law Business School You’d be forgiven for assuming that the...
Sustainable transformation in the energy sector: econnext AG focuses on scale-ups
Scale-ups rather than start-ups: scaling market-ready technologies and companies for a sustainable transformation of the energy and technology sectors Profitable...
Budgeting the unknown, forecasting the uncertain
Tarka Duhalde, Vice President, Financial Controller, IRIS Software Group Volatility and uncertainty are still looming large. In late March...
Building resilience: How to create stability during uncertain times.
Jim Wilkinson, CEO of Zuto We live in uncertain times. Businesses have faced one challenge after another, and we’ve...
The need for simpler cross-border payments must be a priority for all banks
Mushegh Tovmasyan – Founder of Zenus Bank Despite the transformative changes we have seen in the banking sector over...
How app usage can help brands increase their online revenues and customer retention
Arunabh Madhur, Regional VP & Head Business EMEA at SHAREit Group Brands are continuing to invest heavily in the...
Will ‘Britcoin’ change the way we bank?
The Treasury and Bank of England recently announced a state-backed digital pound is likely to be launched in the UK...
In-Store, Online & In-App – Unifying Payment Authentication
Michel Roig, President of Payment and Access, Fingerprints Often, new technologies are lauded as the death of existing ones....
Why the future is phygital
By Eric Megret-Dorne, Head of Card Issuance Services and Service Operations at Giesecke + Devrient Digital banking has become...
Why Keeping Track of Cash Is Key to Economic Survival
By Joshua May, Consulting Manager EMEA, BlackLine Finance and Accounting (F&A) has always had a reputation for its calm...
Does the middle market have a financial edge?
Ilija Ugrinic, Commercial Solutions Director at Proactis Companies tend to look up the ladder when searching for ways to...
Hybrid Intelligence – The only way to face the problems of the future
Author: Prof. Dr. Iris Lorscheid, Vice-Rector Research and Professor of Digital Business and Data Science Computer Science at the University...
Consumer demand driving sustainable payments
Jenn Markey, VP Payments & Identity, Entrust Sustainability is a buzzword that seems to be at the forefront of...
Adyen drives conversion uplift with advanced authentication solution
The company’s expanded authentication offering optimizes authorization, security, and end revenue Adyen (AMS: ADYEN), the global financial technology platform...
It’s time for financial institutions to take personalization seriously
David Hetling, Global Marketing Director, Financial Services, RWS Financial institutions will always play a critical role in society, offering...
The Future of Capital Markets: Democratisation of Retail Investing
Nicky Maan, CEO of Spectrum Markets Over the past decades, global capital markets have undergone tremendous changes. There have...
5 Often-Overlooked Investment Options To Consider Exploring In 2023
When choosing what to invest in, many people will initially focus on the stock market which is considered a more...
New Open Banking platform Archie waves a timely hello to Britain’s beleaguered businesses
Archie is a game-changing payments and data platform that’s inherently human in its approach; a refreshing proposition in the jargon-heavy...