Winning the War on Fraud During COVID-19

Whilst the current COVID-19 crisis has brought many businesses and operations to a standstill, one area it hasn’t diminished is fraud.

The sad truth is that fraudsters don’t stop their crimes because of a pandemic. In fact, they often seize the immense change that comes with an event like this to ramp up their activity – targeting individuals and businesses whilst they are at their most vulnerable and least protected.

The last few weeks have witnessed a phenomenal increase in the volume of fraud attacks – ranging from 200% - 400%, depending on industry. Some of these relate directly to the pandemic, with recent reports indicating there have been at least 500 coronavirus-related scams and over 2,000 phishing attempts so far, made by criminals seeking to exploit fears over the pandemic and take advantage of the changes to working habits. This is a number which is only likely to increase as time goes by.

Over the last couple of months, businesses all over world have faced a myriad of obstacles. Regardless of size or sector, we’ve all needed to adapt in order to survive. The early challenges were around ensuring both connectivity and productivity, enabling employees to work effectively from wherever they would be based during this unprecedented period in history.

Securing this new geographically dispersed workforce and protecting every employee, as well as every customer, from fraud is the next major concern. Many organizations are simply not prepared and do not have the latest preventative tools – such as biometric technologies - in place to shield themselves from financial loss and protect their customers from identity theft.

In such an uncertain time, it's never been more important for organizations to bolster their cybersecurity strategies and arm themselves with the tools to keep fraudsters at bay whilst maintaining usual levels of service.

The ‘new normal’

With the current widespread shift towards staying - and therefore working - at home, many businesses are finding themselves coming against more frequent and more sophisticated styles of attack. Call centers in particular are feeling the strain. Many have had very little previous experience with securing remote environments and fraudsters are taking advantage of this, testing for vulnerabilities by directly attacking agents working from home or even pretending to be those agents in order to test for weaknesses in the wider business.

To add to this, many of these call centers - including those operating for financial institutions, insurance companies, telecom providers and citizen-facing government agencies - are seeing a massive surge in customer call volumes at a global scale.

Holidays and other leisurely activities have been put on hold or cancelled, the economy has taken a downturn and customers want to try and minimize their personal losses. They want answers and, as many of the brick-and-mortar locations shut down, they are turning to call centers to get them. Banks in Ireland, for example, are witnessing a 400% increase in contact center calls seeking financial support, including an average of 7,000 calls a day from customers around mortgage-related concerns.

Increased inquiries will often also lead to increased transactions across digital channels. During the current climate, 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

Biometrics could provide an answer for organizations looking to keep malicious actors at bay and ensure the security of both their contact center customers and employees during COVID-19 and beyond.

A more powerful and effective alternative to passwords and PINs, voice biometrics, for example, cannot be compromised in the same way as knowledge-based security methods. This is because human voices are as unique as a fingerprint. By using sophisticated algorithms to analyze 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 behavioral 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 - in order to find out whether they are who they say they are.

By automatically identifying when fraudulent calls are being made, biometric technologies will prove an invaluable tool for helping to protect customers looking to make digital transactions during this unusual time. They will also help to shield work-at-home contact center agents - often the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain - by improving internal security checks and verifying their identities. This prevents fraudsters from pretending to be them in order to gain wider access to a business’ sensitive information.

At a time where undertaking direct supervision is challenging, biometric authentication can even help to stop malicious insiders by enabling organizations to display less personal information about their customers to their agents. This should diminish any potential risks of occupational fraud and help to put minds at ease.

A new era in fraud prevention

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

Whilst contact centers have never been more important for organizations to continue to communicate effectively with their customers, they have also never been a more attractive target for fraudsters.

Biometric solutions are emerging as a key weapon in the fight against fraud. Their ability to identify customers, agents and fraudsters alike is helping to keep bad actors at bay and ensure that all contact center 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.

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