Imagine this scenario: one day an email pops up, warning you that your bank account has been compromised. The message seems legitimate, listing several personal details and urging you to move your money into a temporary ‘safe’ account while the bank reinforces the security of the old one. You eagerly do so, only to see your savings disappear into a black hole, never to see it again.
When contacting the bank’s customer service, they deny any involvement. At this point, the nagging thought at the back of your mind becomes reality: you have been conned. But let’s not worry, the bank is there to help you, right? Nope, they blame your negligence, adding that they are unable to recover the lost money. You would be surprised at how many times a similar story happened in 2017…
Online Banking Is in a Tight Spot
‘I didn’t hear about a global epidemic of fraudulent acts exploiting the online banking sphere,’ you may argue, ‘so it’s probably nothing serious.’ The truth is, you won’t find statistics or detailed evaluations about the trend of online cons, because they are closely guarded secrets. Victims of banking fraud are asked to report to their bank and not the police, and for this reason companies won’t publish data that would poorly reflect on the quality of their service.
Nevertheless, online banking is a playground for con artists, evidenced by what little data we could find. The Indian government published a report stating that in 2017 over 25,800 cases of online banking scams were reported in their country. The situation is just as bad in Europe, for instance last year the Belgian government shared some early statistics of the first nine months of 2017 and according to the chart at least 2,560 cases online banking fraud were reported, which is shockingly high considering that in 2016 this number was only 475.
Banks in Britain are known to be elusive about such data, but prime minister Theresa May has had to announce the creation of a special taskforce in order to confine scammers, stating that misuse is “shaming their financial system”. Her concerns clearly indicate that fraudulent acts are on the rise.
Who Is to Blame?
The sad thing about all this is that victims cannot expect any sympathy from their bank. By pushing online banking, financial institutions have subtly shifted the blame to the user. If you read the fine print, you’ll probably encounter something along the lines of “You agree to be liable for any transaction authorized by you”, meaning banks are only willing to compensate for scams involving unauthorized transactions. However, if someone tricks you into sending money to a fraud account, then it’s totally your fault.
On the other hand, the online banking system makes a scammer’s job way too easy. Security experts have pointed out several changes that could protect people from fraud. For example, there should be a cooldown on how often large sums of money can be sent to freshly set-up payees. Also, companies should authenticate whether or not the account name and the account details match. Without doing so, con artists can use a loophole to create false accounts with a made-up name. When seeing a trustworthy name – even if it’s not real – people are more likely to lower their defense.
But what can the account owners do to avoid being targeted in the first place? The most important factor is security. Never use public Wi-Fi hotspots without the protection of a VPN connection because otherwise hackers could easily steal their account credentials. Additionally, consider using a password manager, which can create and store incredibly complex passwords to make the fraudster’s work harder.
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