Measures announced over recent weeks to fight COVID-19 have seen business operations drastically changed, with individuals/workers/consumers spending a lot more time both at home and online. Unfortunately, this came with a whole new set of risks for businesses and individuals alike when criminals use any opportunity they can to con innocent people and their businesses.
techUK members Barclays, CIFAS, Cradlepoint and Yoti discussed what they have been witnessing and how they have responded to protect their customers and clients as well as their employees. The City of London Police provided members with some key insights on the policing response.
To put fraud in context, it costs about £200 billion to the UK every year, twice the amount of the expected cost of the current furlough scheme. Monitoring and tackling any new trends and fraud schemes is critical to ensure the risks are mitigated.
Spike in COVID-19 related frauds
Amber Burridge, Head of Fraud Intelligence, CIFAS, explained that fraud has been increasing over the last few years and that in the last few months we have seen fraudsters taking an unmissable opportunity: COVID-19. A third of phishing emails and websites were COVID-19 related.
Many businesses and individuals are vulnerable in this unprecedented event. The addition of health, social and economic risks, working from home, change of habits and processes create an environment where we are all at an increasing risk of being scammed.
Employees across the globe have had to use their own devices and broadband connection. Working from home at this scale is unusual and can be difficult to manage for businesses and individuals alike. Business email compromise particularly is a huge challenge.
COVID-19, rather than a set of new threats or fraud schemes, is a new angle for fraudsters. Most actual fraud is similar to what we have seen in the past – businesses being impersonated, identity fraud, cyber risks and phishing.
Jim Winters, MD, Head UK Fraud Operations and Strategy, Barclays, confirmed that what we are seeing is more a shift in the angle of the fraud. The scam volumes dropped a little bit, but it is the mix of scams that changed – fraudulent websites, phishing and social engineering with a COVID-19 hook.
There was a real concern at first about how organisation would cope with COVID-19 in the first instance with potential and operational issues, but Barclays managed to respond to the new fraud queries with a new contact centre.
The policing response to fraud and new challenges
Alex Rothwell, Deputy National Coordinator, Fraud and Economic Crime, City of London Police, gave a presentation packed with critical advice and insights about the policing response.
The immediate effect of lockdown has been a decrease in demand. There have not been any capacity issues, but capabilities within the police have been affected - such as executing search warrants/arrests. But it is returning to normal levels now as the police are undertaking activities, including arresting people and taking down fraudulent websites effectively and rapidly. As measures are being relaxed across the country, we are likely see the demand increase.
The police detect fraud and produce daily monitoring and analysis. As part of a campaign and advice to people and businesses, different parties within government have been brought together.
Overall fraud has not reduced. And as reported by CIFAS and Barclays the police has seen a shift to COVID-19 related scams. Online shopping - fraudulent deposits for items never delivered, such as PPE and hand sanitiser, has been one of the most commonly reported fraud scams.
The tech to fight fraud
Technology is key enabler when it comes to take measures to prevent and fight fraud. techUK members Cradlepoint and Yoti gave quickfire presentations to showcase how they are helping their clients in mitigating the fraud threats.
Gareth Narinesingh, Commercial Director – Financial Services, Yoti, presented the Yoti concept and products. The company deploys advanced technology to prove people are who they say they are.
Yoti proves you are a real person using NIST approved facial recognition technology to create a biometric template. It verifies your identity by performing double blind checks by Super Recogniser and by verifying information through assured data checks.
Secure FRANKD results are shared using Yoti Digital ID on phones. Individuals use the secure, free Yoti digital ID app to link themselves to their test and, with consent, the digital test result is automatically added into the tested person’s Yoti. Organisations including the NHS already securely issue digital ID cards using the Yoti credential management platform. Individuals can present or share their tamperproof, verified details with other parties in seconds - including their test result - whether in person or online, with a tap of a button or scan of a QR code.
Roger Jones, Solution Architect – EMEA, Cradlepoint, detailed the services and products deployed by Cradlepoint. The company unlocks the power of LTE and 5G cellular networks to give your WAN the boundless reach, nonstop reliability, and real-time agility it needs to keep up with your business, by connecting fixed and temporary sites, vehicles, field forces, and IoT devices, anywhere.
Broadband and bandwith are critical to any individual and services, even more so in a context of increased remote working. Using 4G data is not more expensive than broadband data.
Participants agreed that we are seeing an important amount of COVID-19 related fraud taking place, but not an increase in the number of cases. Most scams use the same patterns and techniques that we could see last year. Besides technology what really matters is the intelligence we can gather and collaboration at both public sector and industry levels.