Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in the country are stepping up measures to check the activities of fraudsters who defraud some Nigerians through fake bank alerts scam.
According to findings by New Telegraph, banks have been getting increasing reports of fraudsters using fake bank SMS notifications to dupe their (banks’) customers.
According to sources, while most bank customers sign up for SMS notifications as these help account holders track movement in their accounts, fraudsters pose as potential buyers of goods or services provided by the bank customer and after both parties have agreed on a price, send fake SMS’s indicating they have deposited money into the sellers’ account.
The criminals usually count on their target, believing the SMS is real and would not bother to confirm with his/her bank before releasing the goods.
Commenting on the issue, a top official of a new generation bank, who did not want to be named, said that lenders were concerned about the development and were mulling measures to address it. He revealed that one of the steps being considered was for banks to change the format of their SMS notifications in such a way that these alerts will contain security features that will be impossible for fraudsters to copy.
The official explained that the current format of bank alerts could be easily duplicated by fraudsters who send the fake alert to their target in the same manner bulk SMS are sent.
The said: “It is very easy these days for anyone who wants to send a fake bank alert to do this by closely studying the format in which the target’s bank sends its alerts. When the fraudster masters the format, he can, just by using Google search, send a fake alert to the target’s phone.”
Stressing that cybercrime, particularly in Internet banking, remains high, the official advised people to always double check any alert they receive from their bank.
“Any person receiving a credit alert should contact their account officers or someone in the bank to confirm the transaction. People can also look at their bank statement to make sure that the money was in fact deposited,” the official stated, adding that people must be extremely cautious, especially when they receive a bank alert that is occasioned by a transaction with a person that is not too well known to them.
Also, in a chat with this newspaper, head, operations at a Lagos branch of a Tier 2 bank, who spoke on condition of anonymity, insisted that fraud is so rampant in the system that account holders should always ensure that they cross check all SMS notifications that they get with their financial institutions.
The official said: “Fake bank alerts is not really a new scam. In fact, fraudsters have so upgraded their ‘skills’ that the advice I usually give to customers is to ensure that they have someone in the bank that they can ask to confirm any transaction on their accounts. Only recently, one of our customers complained that a friend of his, from whom he had purchased a product, claimed that the payment did not hit his account a week after the transaction was done.
“Meanwhile, our records showed that the funds actually left our bank and that the seller’s account ought to have been credited. When we requested him (seller) to produce his bank statement, he actually brought a fake statement that seemed to prove that the money did not hit his account. It took further investigations in collaboration with his bank head office to show that he was lying.”
Interestingly, financial experts attribute the rampant fraud in the system to the high level of unemployment in the country. For instance, data obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) shows that the banking sector recorded 31,736 fraud cases involving the sum of N16.5 billion between January 2014 and December 2016.
The fraud statistics, which are contained in the Nigerian Electronic Fraud Report, prepared by CBN’s Banking and Systems Payment Department, indicate that the frauds were perpetrated through various payment channels in the banking sector such as Across the Counter, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), cheques, Internet banking, mobile banking, Point-of-Sale and web transactions.
The study stated that in the last three years, there had been more attempts in the number of fraud cases, adding that the development might be linked to the economic hardship being experienced in the country.
Specifically, the report stated that the volume of fraud cases rose by 635.3 per cent from 1,461 incidents in 2014 to 10,743 in 2015. Between 2015 and 2016, the report stated that the incidents of fraud rose by 81.8 per cent from 10,743 to 19,532 cases.