Over US$42 billion was lost to fraud and economic crime in 2019, according to PwC. In the UK alone, KPMG says a total of £1.2 billion was stolen by criminals committing fraud last year, while a total of £1.66 billion of unauthorised fraud was prevented by the banking and finance industry in 2018. As per data from the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC)’s 8 months in 2018, internet banking fraud now makes up 55% of all fraud occurring through banks. 

These numbers are alarming. And clearly, their geography-agnostic. You may be doing everything right but if you look at loss data for banks, the number of thefts victimizing customers, the unimaginable may happen to you too. The online world is overflowing with spam, scams, and identity frauds. As a result, it’s more important than ever to know about the criminal environment. Here is a look at online frauds and ways to be safe from them.

1. Phishing & Mobile Fraud

These account for communication and transactions initiated via spam emails or social networks. They may create urgency with emotional content or ask you to fill a form. Mobile frauds are usually executed via third-party apps and smishing (through text messages). They may lead to data duplication, deletion, or transferring your vulnerable data to other devices.

You can prevent these by checking your bank statements regularly and limiting TPTs. Never carry any unnecessary personal information on your phone or wallet. Do not access sensitive personal data on public WiFi networks. Create complicated passwords and change them frequently. Last but not the least, don’t share passwords and other details such as card numbers with anyone.

2. Occupational Fraud

The pandemic has led to more innovation even in the criminal world. Scammers in South Africa have been visiting several homes to “recall” the banknotes and coins because they are supposedly “contaminated with the coronavirus”. Additionally, the scammers are also providing receipts for the “clean” cash, which of course is never given. While Cambridge Analytica may have harvested your personal data, many others may be using social media to impersonate someone else to steal your data and money. Sharing data for better financial experiences (open banking) is one thing. Losing it to others for potential fraud is entirely different. Beware and always verify and validate the information from trusted sources. 

3. Malware

Ever heard of a Trojan or key-logger? Online frauds come in many colors. One such is the greeting card scam where malicious hackers try to inject malware and harvest your data. Clicking such links may lead to malicious software being downloaded and installed on your OS and launch pop-ups with ads, unexpected windows all over the screen. Your device may become one of the bots in a larger network and start sending private data and confidential financial information to a fraudulent server controlled by IT criminals.

How To Be Safe

Follow alerts from regulators, providers of financial services and consumer protection agencies. Read consumer complaint mechanisms for better action, not only in the country but across borders. In 2020, perhaps the most important action that you can take is to be wary of unverified COVID-19 or similar websites or applications that ask for your personal data. Choose websites with “https” in their URL as they generally have more robust security and authentication policies in place to avoid scams.

With the dawn of machine learning & AI, fraud prevention & investigation should become more responsive. It should be capable of spotting abnormal patterns and links that humans are not able to identify. Neo banks are also using automated flagging, AI/ML- assisted decision making for verifying customer identity and transaction patterns, and providing better digital onboarding with adaptable security measures. 


Online banking has been inching closer to near 100% adoption in many regions. Hence, it stands to reason that there is also more crime in this sector. Fraud orchestration to help silos sing is the new rage for fraud management. There is a need for the authorities to respond promptly to better protect consumers and for consumers also to be vigilant. Always remember the golden mantra, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t. So don’t fall for it!