In cybersecurity ignorance is not bliss

As the world continues to evolve and make strides in technology, cybercrime and its related activities also grow more and more sophisticated and less and less apparent. The financial industry, right from the onset, is one that has always had to contend with fraudsters, miscreants and scammers who make it their mission to prey on the innocent, the negligent and the unmindful.

With an increasing number of people using these sophisticated and unlawful schemes as a means of livelihood, it is critical, as an operator within the financial system, to shed light on some of the common ploys used by cybercriminals in order to stay alert and not fall victim to their activities.

One of the most common danger zones is mobile money transactions; and the prevalence of these scams are fast rising. To paint a clear picture of direct scams, let us use Kwasi and Osei in a practical scenario. Kwasi works in a manufacturing firm and has just closed from work, driving himself home. Coincidentally, at a red light, his phone beeps and he realises his mobile money account has just been credited but not from a familiar source [from Osei]. Shortly after, Osei launches a withdrawal request on Kwasi’s number. [Mind you, Kwasi is driving and already has divided attention]. Without looking at what exactly is required of him, he enters his mobile money PIN, validating Osei’s withdrawal request and Osei is able to wipe out his account.

 Two things to note here: (a) when conducting financial transfers of any kind, be sure to give it your full attention and cut out all distractions; (b) If you are to encounter such a situation and Osei goes ahead to call you for a reversal, no matter how earnest or genuine he might sound, refer him to the telecom service provider for assistance. They are able to do reversal of transactions from their end.

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Many people also become victims of mobile money fraud through online shopping, especially through online shops. It is important to ensure that you validate the vendors you interact with for goods/services before making payments to them. A sure preventive measure is to deal with the vendors that are willing to accept ‘payment on delivery’. The risk is always higher when the payment is made ahead of the receipt of goods. At least 5 out of 10 individuals have a story to tell when it comes to how they got duped one way or another from a supposed online shop.

Additionally, a new scam on the rise involves QR codes swapping. Forward looking businesses that wish to provide their customers with the most ease and convenience tend to have their QR code stuck to door entrances and other such public vantage points. What fraudsters are doing now is to cleverly replace those QR codes with theirs by introducing their own fraudulent QR code sticker on top of the genuine one. Once a customer scans theirs, they have access to certain sensitive information that can further aid their theft. Customers are cautioned to be mindful of the environment they choose to make such payments.

Finally, to the slightly more sophisticated clientele who prefer online transactions, the warning is have your guard all the way up. The crooks of today have gotten creative and more ingenious in how they go about their nefarious activities. With the possibility of cloning legitimate web pages now and other phishing tactics, the risk of having your card details, login credentials, etc. breached and your account completely wiped out is ever increasing.

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Cybercriminals prey on the oblivious for a number of reasons; none of which ever have the best interest of the victims at heart. Once they are able to lure you into their trap, there is a myriad of things that can be done against you. With the successful gathering of certain sensitive data, they are able to sell to other criminals for more money, which may result in damaging repercussions for the victim. Furthermore, a breach of your details could allow the attackers take over your account and lock you out. Moreover, if they are able to gather personal information about you, it fuels their identity theft agenda; to which the risks are endless.

In this digitalized era, everyone is a potential victim and it is important that as a prospective target to cybercrime, you do not underestimate just how far an attacker is willing to go to have you compromised. It will be useful to heed all the safety precautions aforementioned, in addition to the basics, which include not sharing your PINs, login credentials, etc with anybody; ensuring that transactions made online are from secure and trusted websites; and putting in efforts to make informed decisions. ‘Ignorance is bliss’ will only work well for the attacker. Be safe, be smart, be vigilant!

By Odette Beeko

The write is a graduate trainee at Stanbic Bank