Security and Risk Online: E-payments: Cyber-criminals put financial operators on their toes

 

The challenge of fraud in electronic transactions remains one enduring source of concern for stakeholders in the financial sector. As the e-platforms grow, the potential risks equally skyrocket requiring a more proactive approach in nipping the trends in the bud.

 

This advancement has come with its challenges and risks as internet fraudsters took advantage of the technology loopholes to defraud unsuspecting customers of their hard earned money. Blocking these loopholes has been the major headache of stakeholders due to the growing e-payment channels and as transactions through such means grow.

 

According to the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement Scheme (NIBSS), the value of total transaction made on the two major electronic payment platforms of NIBSS Instant Payment (NIP) and National Electronic Fund Transfer (NEFT) stood at N35 trillion in the last three quarters of 2016, an equivalent of transaction value on all various electronic payment platforms in 2015.

 

In the last quarter of last year, the industry recorded N13.246 trillion transactions. While NEFT was N3.657 trillion, NIP recorded N9.589 trillion transactions.

 

Within the first two quarters last year, over 60 million units of transactions valued at N21.837 trillion were made on the two platforms according to report,

 

Combined with transaction value and volume on other platforms, which according to NIBSS, includes E-bills, mobile money and cheque transactions, it is obvious that the amount of money that daily exchanges hands electronically among individuals, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), multi-national companies and Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) is on the high side, hence, the rising trend of electronic fraud (e-fraud).

 

Also in 2013, NIBSS revealed that 822 cases of electronic fraud were recorded with an attempted value of N19.15 billion, while the actual loss to the online scam stood at N485.19 million.

 

Reported cases of fraud moved up by 78 per cent in 2014 to 1,461.  While attempted value reduced to N7.75 billion, the actual loss was N6.216 billion.

 

The trend, however, subsided in 2015 following efforts by stakeholders. In 2015, about 946 attempted e-fraud cases were recorded on the networks of banks, Other Financial Institutions (OFIs) and Mobile Payment Operators (MPOs), resulting in an approximated  loss of N5 billion, compared with N6.216 billion record of 2014.

 

Deputy Governor, Operations at the CBN, Mr. Adebayo Adelabu who was a special guest at a forum recalled that the NeFF had in the last five years proven to be a formidable stakeholder in securing this ecosystem, through a unique and critically important role of creating a platform for collaboration amongst stakeholders in payments system but more still needs to be done as the trend becomes more potent.

 

Adelabu who was represented by Mr. Taiwo Oladimeji, his Special Assistant, said, “The challenge of securing the Nigerian payments system will always be a daunting task, for with ease of payments, comes greater adoption, and with increased adoption, the lure of cyber-criminals who seek to convert either digital assets or resources or both to their own becomes greater.”

 

Mr. Dipo Fatokun, Chairman of NeFF and Director Banking and Payment System Department of the CBN explained the successes recorded so far by the forum and gave an overview of the plans for the New Year, among which is the organization of a workshop that would “highlight the challenges inherent in the Cyber-Crime Prohibition Act 2015 and its possible effect on e-commerce and use the recommendations to engage the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Office of the National Security Adviser on reviewing certain aspects that could affect the effective operationalization of the Act.” 

 

He said efforts to establish a Dedicated e-Payment and Card Crime Unit in the Nigerian Police Force has gained momentum awaiting the approval of CBN’s Committee of Governors, expressing optimism that the unit would take shape in the coming year.

 

Fatokun however said a robust awareness programme for members of the public and staff of organizations that operate within the payments space would be carried out in 2017, saying, “It is important that our awareness programme starts in 2017 as this would help the industry reduce cost of fraud through increased vigilance and detection abilities”.

 

Stanbic IBTC Bank, FCMB, Citi Bank and the Standard Chartered Bank were co-sponsors of the dinner with their managing directors well represented at the forum. The bank stakeholders were unanimous in their pledge for more collaboration to effectively nip the trend of e-fraud in the bud and safeguard the integrity of online transactions.

 

According to the Chief Risk Officer of Stanbic, Mfon Akpan, 2016 has been a challenging year for bank. Worse still, she said, the industry continues to witness ingenuous activities of fraudsters. Though their activities have been frustrated to some extent, Akpan noted that more still needs to be done by stakeholders because “a porous banking industry will not engender trust in the public”.

 

She also said the introduction of the Biometric Verification Number (BVN) has helped to reduce the extent of fraud but the industry is surrounded by powerful syndicates including insider threat. “We need to raise the bar, sharpen the saw, no need for complacency. We need collaboration among banks, telecommunication sector, internet service providers (ISPs) to identify the perpetrators with speed”, she said.

 

Soji Adeniyi, Chief Auditing Executive at FCMB also corroborated Akpan on the need for collaboration with Telcos and the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) to minimize the fraud. “We need constant forum to educate law enforcement agents and judicial officers among other players in the electronic payment system.

 

Providing insight into the electronic fraud challenge in the 21st Century banking system was the Head of Cyber Risk Services at Deloitte West Africa, Mr. Tope Aladenusi who spoke on “Disruptive Technology and the Future of Secure Payment”.