“Fraudsters are opportunists. When there is a crisis the fraudsters are not far behind. It’s not necessarily new fraud but there are more vulnerabilities for them to take advantage of.”

That’s what Kit Loughlin, Fraud and Investigations Manager at The Co-operative Bank, told our Membership Director, Sarah Hunt, during a recent CCMA Podcast. Here’s a summary of the experiences and advice that he shared.

“Clearly, in our lifetime, we have never seen something on this scale. But if you look at events such as the collapse of Thomas Cook, you will also see the criminals devising ways to trick consumers into either parting with their money or sensitive and personal information, which then gets used for fraudulent activity.

“To give you an idea of the pace and scale of the fraudsters activity around the coronavirus you only have to look at information available from security firms that monitor phishing sites. In January there were around 140 phishing sites that were related to COVID-19, increasing to 1,100 in February once the virus had more publicity. In March that number shot up to over 9,000 – currently around 2% of all phishing sites identified relate to coronavirus.”

Reducing your exposure to fraud

On the podcast Kit went on to share some examples of where fraudsters are taking advantage of the situation. So Sarah asked him what operational leaders should look out for to reduce their exposure to fraud. This was his advice:

“Give your teams the confidence to challenge if they think a customer may be a fraudster. It’s a lot more difficult to have a conversation with a customer who has been a victim of fraud than it is to challenge up front and make sure that they are protected.

“If you’re in the finance industry, have the conversation with customers to check whether they have been asked to lie or tell you a different reason for the payment. And ensure that your advisors are asking pertinent questions of your customers to further ascertain the authenticity of the individual.

“In the telecoms sector, banks are seeing an increase in fraud when a genuine customer has had their number inappropriately swapped to another SIM, so it’s worth making sure that you have secure processes and controls around the delivery of new SIMs and porting numbers.

“And of course, make sure that everyone in your workplace has the ability to report fraud or any unusual or concerning activity, and that you have the operational capability to deal with it.”

Fraud and homeworking

With many contact centres now operating a homeworking model, this could increase the exposure of fraud to business. Kit suggests that you should make sure that your teams are working safely, that the technology maintains your anti-virus and firewall policies, as well as data protection. He says that everyone should know who they are talking to, and to take action to validate the individual before providing any information.

Train your teams

Helping frontline colleagues to spot fraud will help reduce the cost and pressure of this growing threat in the contact centre. Here’s what Kit had to say on this:

“Keep your training fresh and relevant. Suggest your advisors give short, sharp information to customers and talk in their language – there’s a tendency to lose messages when you wrap it up. But of course, be empathetic.

“If someone has identified or stopped a fraud, let the rest of the team know. This is a good thing. Of course, this is only one scenario that frontline colleagues deal with every day, and so the fraud team should be aware of that.

“Fundamentally, the threat and reality of fraud is growing in awareness and stories are shared more and more through social media to highlight scams quickly. The more everyone can do this, the greater we can enhance knowledge and build protection.”

Finally, Kit wanted to share a couple of key resources that he uses at The Co-operative Bank to support their fight against fraud.

Action Fraud has some really good support material and the National Trading Standards team has built a resource called Friends Against Scams with some really good practical advice and training.”

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