Preventing fraud during a global pandemic

Amongst the many challenges that Covid-19 has created and exacerbated within the business landscape, fraud has been one of the most widespread.

Recent weeks have proved that scams don’t diminish during a pandemic. In fact, during this time of crisis, many fraudsters have taken advantage, targeting individuals whilst they are at their most vulnerable and least protected, such as elderly citizens. The latest figures indicate that fraud attacks have increased by between 200% – 400%, depending on industry. In the current climate of uncertainty, everyone is being targeted and no one is immune.

As a result, while the early COVID-19-related business challenges centred on ensuring productivity and connectivity for employees, protection against fraud has quickly become a point of concern.

It’s imperative that organisations strengthen their cybersecurity systems and arm themselves with the latest preventative tools – such as biometric technologies – to shield themselves from financial loss and protect their most vulnerable customers from identity theft during this time of uncertainty and beyond.

The unsung heroes of business

With the sudden large-scale adoption of remote working, many businesses are experiencing more frequent and more sophisticated styles of attack. Call centres, in particular, are under pressure. Many have had little to no experience with enabling remote working environments and fraudsters are using this to their advantage – testing for vulnerabilities by directly attacking agents working from home or even pretending to be those agents to test for weaknesses in the wider business.

Add to this that many call centres are seeing a massive surge in customer call volumes at a global scale. The economic downturn has all but brought the housing, hospitality and holiday industries to their knees and customers are concerned about their finances. They have questions and – in a time when many physical banks and offices are closed – they are turning to call centres for the answers. Banks in Ireland, for example, are witnessing a 400% increase in contact centre calls seeking financial support, including an average of 7,000 calls a day from customers around mortgage-related concerns.

In the present circumstances, it can be difficult for customer care agents to navigate the sheer volume of calls, let alone separate the fraudsters from the real customers requesting to make these transactions. This is where biometric technology can help.

Keeping the fraudsters at bay

Biometric technologies could be the answer for organisations seeking to protect both their employees and their customers against malicious actors during the global pandemic and beyond. The most advanced technologies can also enable organisations to identify those over 65 years of age and prioritise them accordingly using the sound of their voice.

As consumers today are primarily interacting with businesses on digital channels, older people are at increased risk of falling victim to fraud as criminals take advantage of the current circumstances to obtain personal information. Those individuals are not only being exploited by aggressive fraudsters but in some cases, by others they know. According to Age UK, an older person in England and Wales becomes a victim of fraud every 40 seconds.

While fraudsters are increasingly able to overcome traditional forms of authentication – such as “one-time passwords” and PINs – voice biometrics cannot be compromised in the same way. This is because human voices are as unique as a fingerprint. By using sophisticated algorithms to analyse more than 1,000 voice characteristics, voice biometric technology uses a caller’s voice to not only validate their identity but also protect them against hackers.

Another protective layer on top of voice biometrics is behavioural biometrics. This technology measures how an individual interacts with a device – how they type, how they tap and how they swipe or even hold the phone – to find out whether they are who they say they are.

By automatically differentiating between fraudulent and genuine calls, biometric technologies are becoming vitally important for protecting customers looking to make digital transactions during this unusual time. They also help to shield remote working call centre agents – usually the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain – by improving internal security checks and verifying their identities. This prevents fraudsters from stealing their identity to gain wider access to a business’ confidential information.

The future of fraud prevention

While many aspects of COVID-19 remain uncertain, one thing is for sure; it has changed the business landscape forever. Organisations of all shapes and sizes have had to adapt to survive and, as a result, new opportunities and challenges have emerged.

Contact centres have never been a more attractive or lucrative target for fraudsters, with customers being more reliant on them than ever before.  As such, they need immediate and effective protection, which is where biometric technologies come in.

Biometric solutions are emerging as a key weapon in the fight against COVID-19 related fraud. Their ability to identify customers, agents and fraudsters alike are helping to keep bad actors at bay and ensure that all contact centre connections are safe and secure. By investing in them, businesses can help to protect themselves and their customers, during the current age of COVID-19 and future proof for whatever lies beyond.

Contributed by Brett Beranek, VP & general manager, security and biometrics at Nuance Communications

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