Matching the euphoria of digital banking with enhanced fraud awareness (3)

“Know where to find the information and how to use it. That’s the secret of success.” – Albert Einstein

Dear readers, I bring you this concluding article on the need for banks to balance the excitement about advantages of digital banking with the creation of an enhanced awareness that this new dispensation in banking should at the same time be handled with care, so that both bankers and customers reap the benefits to the full. As intimated in my earlier submissions, I am not a guru in these matters – only an advocate for both customers and bankers.

Since South Africa is the leader of digital banking in Africa, it is wise that we update ourselves on how they are coping with the surge in digital banking fraud and measures they are taking to ensure the financial institutions are on top of their game.

A few years ago, Ghanaian banks were apprehensive of their jobs being taken over by telecommunication operators. However, over the past three years this has now turned into a massive collaboration of the two sectors in the economy, whereby banks, telecoms as well as fin-techs are now working together to ensure a unique blend of functions for the benefit of financial intermediation and effective payment systems.

Reminders of crimes related to traditional banking

In our part of the world, where cash is still king, we still witness crimes involving armed robbery on persons carrying loads of cash – either from the bank or on their way to the bank. Let us look at a common trend:

The customer/client leaves a bank and is followed and robbed. The victims are often employers of large labour workforces, for example factories.

These people,  instead of paying their workers through the banks, withdraw large amounts of cash on certain known days to pay their casual labourers the following day. To quote from a paper read at a conference in March 2013 by Rabelani Dagada of the University of Johannesburg on the topic Digital Banking Security, Risk and Credibility Concerns in South Africa he states:

“The lynchpin of the gang is the ‘spotter’. Spotters blend in, wait in bank queues and look for a target. Sometimes, they don’t even need to see the money; they hear it. They will listen for the noise of the cash machine counting out money. To make themselves appear legitimate, spotters will deposit small amounts of cash or ask a teller for change. Using a cellphone, the spotter will then quickly pass on information.

They will describe what their target is wearing and sometimes even inform the ‘shooters’ outside in which pocket the money is being held. Outside, the shooters will pick up the target and begin following on foot or by car. The actual hit is quick and sometimes the gang is violent. Bank customers are not just followed. Sometimes the robbers strike as they head to the bank to deposit money.”

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I shudder as I recall how Ghanaians witnessed two massive armed robbery attacks early this year. One involved an employer in Tema who was robbed on his way to the factory after withdrawing a huge volume of cash from the bank to pay his workers. He was murdered in cold-blood for something which could have been avoided. Similarly, another well-organised gang also stormed a motorcycle shop in the Industrial area of Accra, seized cash from workers, looted cash in the safe meant for pickup by a bank – and even carried away the CCTV monitor! Sad indeed. Minor incidents continue to happen regularly, with some not even reported.

Security in digital banking delivery channels

Banks use the Internet, cellphone and Automated Teller Machine (ATMs) as delivery

channels to reduce operational costs and enable customers to conduct banking transactions conveniently. To ensure that digital banking has come to stay, there is a need to beef-up security for both customers and the banks. Digital banking has attracted criminal elements employing tactics such as skimming, SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card swapping, ‘phishing’ and ‘spoofing’, ATM bombings, and SMS (Short Message Service) interception.

Tit-bits for Customers and Bank Staff

Fraud awareness has always been key in the delivery of bank services, and digital banking is no exception. For the sake of creating a balancing act as we enjoy all the goodies in digital banking, I will share little tit-bits for both customers and bank staff:

  • Never share your PIN (Personal Identification Number). It is a code for customers or beneficiaries of the service. Not for spouses, friends and/or relatives. You share it at your own peril.
  • Bank staff should also keep their computer User Access Passwords to themselves, not even giving it to their supervisors! Not even when you have to rush into the washroom for five minutes.
  • Customers entering an ATM facility should scout the environment to ensure there are no suspicious persons lurking around. Avoid quiet and dimly-lit ATMs at night. Watch out for any suspicious coating or material around the slot where the card is inserted. It can be a camera waiting to record your pin and be quickly removed by the scammer standing nearby to make a cloned card for emptying your account.
  • Quickly change the PIN when you suspect someone has seen your input. This applies also to bank staff who feel their passwords have been compromised.
  • Customer service staff who assist first-time users of ATMs should never stand close to them when they are keying in their PIN. They may report that you have seen their code.
  • Ensure you check your SMS messages carefully and compare with previous ones to ensure the balance brought forward is correct. Please check the date of the message. It could be a repetition, creating a wrong impression about your current balance. If there is a discrepancy, let your bankers be aware immediately.
  • When the ATM fails to dispense cash, and yet the receipt shows that the account has been debited, keep the print-out or receipt and wait for a refund. Check the mini-statement to sight the reversal. If it does not happen, quickly send the receipt to the bank and get the reversal done manually if they have a problem.
  • Ensure to keep your VISA cards slotted into a POS machine in sight when you are paying for a service at the restaurant, pharmacy, petrol station, clinic etc. Don’t allow the waiter to take the card away with the machine. Collect your receipt and ensure the amount deducted is correct.
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Recently, a petrol attendant who sold fuel to me keyed an amount of GH¢360 instead of GH¢316! Of course it was intentional and he had to apologise as I got it corrected. He thought he was smarter than the senior citizen he was serving!

  • Customer service officers in the branches should ensure any change of telephone number meant for digital banking is properly confirmed by the known customer and authenticated by the supervisor. The letter or email could be from an imposter who has a stolen or cloned cheque of your customer to withdraw funds illegally.

The actual owner’s telephone SIM may have been hijacked temporarily and your telephone call for confirmation of the cheque diverted. You will think you are talking to your customer when you call. It is rather to the imposter. He or she will quickly ask you to honour the cheque. The rest is history.

  • Customers, please use standalone computers. Avoid using Internet cafes for your banking transactions. Sometimes you may forget to log-out at the café, and someone can continue from where you have started. In these days of smart phones, it is safer to use your own phone for your transactions.

These tips are very basic and yet should not be taken for granted. The list is endless, so I may continue in another session one day. Until then, stay safe and enjoy the beauty of self-service and digital banking.


Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of two books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.



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