Ways to protect yourself from online fraud

Payment is the lifeblood of any economy. It is the flow of money from a buyer to a seller. For a long time, payment was largely physical, and people transacted with only cash. But with the advent of digital technologies, payments have moved online, and transactions are now largely contactless.

Cash is still king in places like Nigeria, but since the pandemic, a lot of people have begun to adopt electronic payments.

Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System in a report titled ‘Instant Payments – 2020 Annual Statistics’ affirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the e-payments landscape and accelerated the adoption of instant payments as more people switched to electronic channels for funds exchange.

Since then, a Central Bank of Nigeria naira redesign policy has driven e-payment volumes and transactions to record highs.

In January 2023, cashless transactions rose by 45.41 per cent year-on-year to N39.58tn.

The CBN expects this growth to continue and in its Payments Vision 2025 document, the apex bank disclosed that by 2025, the country will have a cashless and efficient electronic payment system infrastructure that will slowly phase out cash transactions.

It said, “The use of cash will naturally slow with the ‘mobile first generation’, which will be economically active by 2025, hence one of the focuses of the PSV 2025 is enhancing the cashless policy of the CBN.

“As we implement the PSV 2025 agenda, the CBN will continue to ensure that the Nigerian payments system is widely utilised domestically, supports the government’s financial inclusion objectives, and meets international standards while contributing to overall national economic growth and development of Nigeria.”

This increase in e-payment has also led to an increase in online fraud cases, with scammers gaining access to accounts and carting away their victims’ money.

According to the NIBSS, an increase in transaction processing speed and available channels has created an avenue for fraudulent transactions to thrive.

In the first half of 2022, three Nigerian banks recorded 26,877 fraud cases according to analyses of their financial reports for the first half of 2022.

Speaking at a webinar organised by the Committee of e-Banking Industry Heads, with the theme ‘Digital Fraud and the Need for a National Intelligence Programme’, the Chairperson of CeBIH, Ms Celestina Appeal, stated that online fraud has the potential to become the most prominent type of fraud by 2030.

The growing rate of fraud has left a sour taste in the mouth of many and has raised concerns with experts saying it can be traced to the slow adoption and trust of e-payment platforms.

Basic awareness about online scams can help you avert becoming a victim of online fraud. Here are some ways, culled from The Economic Times, to protect yourself from online fraud:

Use verified apps only

Mobile apps have changed the way we shop and transact. Every time you install an app on your device, make sure you are using a verified app. Whether it is a financial app or a new game, download only from official app stores like Google Play Store, Windows App Store or Apple App Store.

Browse on authorised websites only

Beware of imposter websites that may look professional or carry the same domain name as the original one in the URL. Look for “https://” before “www” and the lock icon on the address bar of your browser.

Use secure connections only

The urge to use free WiFi at a cafe, hotel lounge or airport can also make one vulnerable to financial fraud. Avoid using public hotspots for making financial transactions. Public networks are more prone to the risk of data theft since their encryption can be cracked easily to access your account’s crucial information.

Be vigilant while using card

Always make a card payment in front of your eyes. Be sure that the PoS machine is 100 per cent genuine. There are dozens of stories about cards being cloned by skimmers since the card was out of sight while the transaction was being done. Do not let anyone steal your hard-earned money because of your negligence.

Do not compromise on security software for phones/computers

Everyone wants their payments to be secure but how many pay attention to their mobile and computer’s security software, web browser, and operating system? Update your PC/laptop and mobile security to prevent the online mishappening. Also, always set up strong passwords with a combination of special characters, letters, numbers, and upper and lower case. Do not forget to change the passwords on a regular basis.

Do not share personal information with anyone

Never share your personal information online or offline unless you are sure about the authenticity of the representative. There can be a possible scammer hiding behind a stranger or any third party posing as an executive from a bank or financial institution. Always verify the identity of the person asking for your financial details. Bank authorities never ask for sensitive information like OTP, CVV on calls. Also, sharing important financial details like bank name, branch, account number, etc., on social media is a big no.

Never click on suspicious links on SMS or emails

Link baiting, spurious emails, and SMS are the most common forms of trapping people into fraud. These links may seem genuine and attract your attention with claims of a lottery or a job overseas. Do not follow any such links, as they may lead you to a phishing site and rob you of your mobile’s security features. It is better to hang up in case you receive an unsolicited call.

According to the Head of Engineering, OnePipe, Victor Irechukwu “Security should continue to be a top priority for every party involved in e-payment transactions.

“Fraud prevention involves taking measures to stop fraud from occurring and taking steps to detect frauds quickly (when they occur) and stop them as soon as possible. Different techniques for preventing and detecting fraud are required as there are different types of fraud in e-payment transactions.”

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