TahawulTech.com’s Deputy Editor, Daniel Shepherd, spoke with Saeed Ahmad, Managing Director, MENA, Callsign about the rise in fraudulent activity in the region and how organisations can better combat them through dynamic authentication technology.
1: Could you outline how scams have risen in the MENA region in recent years? There are three main reasons that we have attributed to this rise. Firstly, the mass move to online over the last few years, which was largely accelerated by COVID-19. People and businesses, that were traditionally analogue, were forced to upgrade and their lack of awareness was a key factor. Simply put, fraud likes to hide where there is volume and the recent shift granted them an opportunity. Secondly, many organisations have just created digital versions of their brick-and-mortar businesses. They did this whilst lacking in digital native thinking, for example, the way we design passwords has remained relativity unchanged over the decades. By using outdated methods organisations exposed themselves to the more digital-savvy fraudsters. Finally, the way we identify ourselves online leaves us open to potential scams. Around 50% of UAE customers reported receiving Scam messages in a recent report. Fraudsters masquerading as either business or customer erodes brand trust. From the consumers perspective trust in digital identities and the digital world at large is rapidly eroding.
2: How can organisations build and maintain digital trust and why is it so important? Digital trust is vital as it plays a key role in giving consumers confidence in digital transactions. Around 66% of UAE customers have less trust in social media channels due to experience with scams. Organisations must be keenly aware of the link between digital trust and brand reputation. In order to maintain this trust organisations must fix the dilemma of digital identity. Authentication mechanisms and preventative measures are important to properly implement. Once fraudsters begin to utilise the same channels and devices that real customers use it can be hard to tell them apart. To counter this organisations need to positively identify customers from the outset by implementing new and specialist identification technology. They cannot allow themselves to forget that the reputational damage inflicted by fraud can be huge.
3: Which communication channels do you believe are most vulnerable to scams? The average individual receives three scam messages a day across multiple communication channels. In my estimation SMS is the weakest link, it has led to a 51% decrease in digital trust as both fraudsters and customers use it in a manner that is difficult to distinguish between. As fraudsters subvert customers via SMS, businesses find themselves in a technological arms race to counter the global proliferation of scam. However, there is only so much that they can do without specialist, third-party, support and consultation.
4: What are the steps that organisations and customers can take to prevent online scams and fraud? To start with both parties must establish the confidence that they know who they’re interacting with and work forward from there. Businesses must consider the following three questions, how secure is that session or device, is that a real person or a bot or the wrong person and is it the right person, but have they been tricked by social engineering? Organisations must start by making positive identification so that both parties can move forward with confidence. By implementing behavioural biometrics, we can recognise how you hold your phone, swipe to unlock it or the rhythm of how you type, which can all be used to distinguish you from a fraudster. Comparing your device and the location from which is communicating is also a useful trick to catch out fraudsters operating abroad. This family of techniques and technology is known as Dynamic Intervention Technology and aims to provide a seamless experience with no single point of failure. The goal is to identify fraud as it happens based on the collected data. The key is that organisations need to bring all these strategies together into a seamless to speed up the process of the user journey to be much faster than it was in the past. Additional key steps for businesses are that the process must be dynamic as fraud is rarely textbook in the digital age. Many businesses rely on software-based solutions to establish if you are interacting with a returning device, in our experience we find that relying on the hardware is more reliable e.g., how do the mechanical components of the device render a fingerprint. We call this process Digital DNA and it is vital to our approach to delivering an Intelligence Driven Authentication (IDA) platform.
5: Are there any unique insights on the topic of scams from your consumer research that you would be willing to share? Identity is the key problem facing both the consumer and the organisation. We need to collectively acknowledge that there is a better way. Why are we allowing scams to use the same channels we use for business? Why are we using outdated authentication technology? People have already begun to lose trust and the reputational damage is huge, especially for e-commerce organisations. 45% of consumers think that identity is the problem when asked. Overall, organisations must wake up to this reality and strive to provide a better service.
Established in 2012, Callsign’s mission is to seamlessly power the identification of every web, mobile and physical interaction. By using AI to build Digital DNA they aim to deliver omni-channel solutions based heavily in behavioural biometrics. Whilst Callsign is a global business, their MENA institute is a centre of excellence.