As the entire world has learned throughout 2020, effective suppression of the COVID-19 pandemic requires concerted responses and coordinated action. Medical professionals must adopt new protocols; local, state, and national governments must implement track-and-trace programs; everyday citizens must adopt risk-minimizing tactics like wearing masks and physical distancing.
Unfortunately, fraudsters have taken advantage of the pandemic to rob and steal. And just as beating the virus, beating COVID-19-related fraud will also require a multiparty approach.
Organizations with call centers must keep this in mind and take an omnichannel strategy to fraud mitigation: end consumers, call center agents, security teams, and technology must work together to stop fraud.
Today’s consumers are aware of identity theft and may even have a basic understanding of scammers’ methods, but knowledge hasn’t always inspired action. In a recent Pindrop survey, 90% of customers recognized that they should not repeat passwords across services — but 59% admitted that they did it anyway. Seemingly innocuous internet posts can expose consumers to fraud.
Suppose, for example, that you set an account recovery security question to the name of your pet, your city of birth, or your high school. If you post about your dog on Facebook, join a “hometown” group, or post on high school alumni pages, you may be giving away the keys to your account.
It may not be fun to think like a fraudster, but acting on your knowledge of criminal activity can keep consumers safe online. Businesses and financial institutions can serve their customers well by reminding customers of the threats they may face and of the tools, like password management systems, that can keep them safe.
Call centers and interactive voice response (IVR) automated systems may not seem likely targets for scammers. For one thing, customers are unlikely to transfer money or make other high-value transactions in the course of an IVR interaction. However, leaving an IVR unmonitored and unprotected is among the most severe security risks an organization can take, and fraudsters are increasingly taking advantage.
According to a report by Aite Group, 46 percent of financial institutions lost more to contact center fraud in 2020 than 2018. Furthermore, most contemporary fraud is not a one-and-done action, the twenty-first century equivalent of three-card monte, executed in a few minutes. Rather, modern fraud is an extended, often months-long, process.
Fraudsters exploit self-service prompts and call flows to steal information they will use at a later date; with contemporary technology and machine learning, it’s possible to predict probable fraud attempts up to two months in advance. Scammers are playing a long game and taking the long view; security teams must match them.
IVR monitoring is vital for institutions but call center agents must also receive up-to-date training to ensure that they continue to efficiently serve customers while effectively deterring fraudsters.
The good news for agents is that the vast majority of calls they receive are honest: About 1 agent call in 700 demonstrates criminal intent. Even better news: New AI and machine learning technology can give agents a heads-up by flagging suspicious calls. Up to 80% of real-time fraud attempts can be identified; agents can receive real-time risk scores for each of their calls.
Such tools are especially valuable during this year’s pandemic. Scammers may attempt appeals to agents’ better natures, by saying, for example, that they need the information to help a hospitalized relative who was laid off and never received their stimulus check. The work-from-home environment also gives criminals a potential advantage.
In a normal year, agents can consult nearby colleagues or quickly flag the supervisor nearest them. These casual, ad hoc connections with peers aid fraud detection, but they’re less likely to happen in this era of working from home. If their coworkers are harder to consult, call center agents need every advantage they can get in the fight versus fraud.
Though consumers and businesses alike are hard-pressed and suffering, crime doesn’t stop in a pandemic, and may even increase. It’s incumbent on businesses to empower themselves and empower their clients to stem the tide of identity theft and fraud. By educating customers, securing IVR systems, and providing tools and training to agents, we have the chance to do good and preserve the bottom line.