Combating Cyber Fraud Begins At The End User

Nov 05, 2018

Consumers need to understand how to protect themselves, says Jeff Wong.

Vancouver Sun20 Oct 2018 Jeff Wong is chief business transformation officer at Coast Capital Savings.

Safe online behaviours are the first line of defense in thwarting multibillion-dollar cyber scams, writes Jeff Wong.

Six hundred billion dollars. That is how much was lost last year to cybercrime, according to a recent report by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

October is Cyber-security Awareness Month, a good reminder to brush up on how to protect ourselves from the risks posed by online criminals.

Fighting cybercrime requires both human and artificial intelligence. This is where credit unions and banks can help by ensuring that technology is complemented by talented teams of cyber-security strategists, professionals involved in systems development and testing, and experts in threat response and cyber forensics, among others.

While financial institutions make significant investments at the back end to thwart cyber crooks, consumers at the front end remain a “soft target” of opportunity for fraudsters and are therefore a primary focus of fraudulent activity. Cyber fraudsters know they are more likely to succeed by exploiting any lax protections or practices by consumers.

One of the best ways to fight cybercrime is by empowering people with the information they need to serve on the front lines of cyber fraud prevention.

Financial institutions can help make the public less vulnerable by sharing education on the most common types of cyber fraud not only this month but all year, using every channel we can: websites, social media, email, mail, newspaper advertisements, face-to-face, and in-branch messages.

You might have heard about “spear phishing,” which is now one of the biggest threats to online and mobile banking security. This was among the top scams in Canada in 2017, according to the Better Business Bureau. In fact, RSA, a leading cyber-security company, lists Canada as the No. 1 country for phishing scams.

With spear phishing, criminals send a message claiming to be from a financial institution and ask the target to verify their online banking password or personal access code.

People need to be aware that no financial institution will ever ask them for sensitive financial information by email or text. If you receive a suspicious message, delete it without clicking on the links and report it to your financial institution.

Another growing area of cybercrime involves online and mobile purchases. It is estimated that Canadians lost more than $13 million to online purchase scams last year.

These cyber scams may include fake websites that look like those of reputable online retailers, websites that sell counterfeit goods, and fraudulent free trial schemes.

Credit unions and banks can help the public avoid online purchase scams by helping consumers identify common red flags of fraud. Fraudulent online stores sometimes target credit card users shopping on insecure sites, but the scammers usually like to request payment by money orders, pre-loaded credit cards, or wire transfers.

That’s because these payment channels make it more difficult for them to be tracked. Consumers should be skeptical about incredible sales or free offers. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Another quick tip: Make sure any site where you are making purchases has a URL that begins with “https:” as it indicates a secure site.

Finally, consumers can build a buffer against cyber threats by practicing safe online behaviours and maintaining strong security software and systems on all of their computers, mobile devices, and networked home devices.

In an increasingly interconnected world, sub-optimum security on any device or technology connected to Wi-Fi or the internet — including intelligent home appliances and fixtures that make up the Internet of Things — could potentially serve as a back door for criminals bent on accessing valuable financial information.

Personal information indiscriminately shared on social media, like your birthday or home address, could also be used by criminals for identity theft.

For this reason, credit unions and banks must go beyond educating people about threats specific to financial transactions to promoting greater understanding of these associated risks.

So, what can you do? Start by being cautious with personal information posted on social media, use strong passwords, make sure your internet browsers are up to date, and invest in the latest virus and spyware protection. And then reach out to your credit union or bank for advice on how you help protect your financial wellbeing. After all, we are here to help.

Milking cows is a lot easier than ‘milking’ cockroaches, and given that some 1,000 roaches have to be sacrificed to get 100 grams of crystals, ‘cockroach milk’ does not appear to be an economical source of nutrients. Joe Schwarcz, McGill University While financial institutions make significant investments at the back end to thwart cyber crooks, consumers at the front end remain a ‘soft target’ of opportunity for fraudsters.

JEFF WONG, Coast Capital Savings

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