South African banks look to biometrics to reduce fraud

IN OCTOBER 2015, the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) released its card fraud report which found that while credit card fraud decreased in 2015, debit card fraud is on the rise, accounting for over R257m in losses last year.

This shift from credit card fraud to debit card fraud can be attributed, at least in part, to the roll-out of new technology. The deployment of chip and pin has decreased the amount of credit card fraud yet, unfortunately, the fraud does not simply disappear. Rather, the attack vector moves to areas that are more susceptible to fraud and where new technology has not yet been adopted.

For example, Standard Bank was targeted this May by a counterfeit ATM card scam and lost over R300m within a period of three hours in Japan. Why Japan? The primary reason is that ATMs in Japan continue to support the use of magnetic strip card data in addition to the more secure chip and pin. Yet, even chip and pin technology is not infallible and is vulnerable to card trapping. With the global rise in identity theft, it must be acknowledged that establishing an individual’s true identity is critical to preventing account fraud. The only true way to bind an account to an individual is to use the authorised individual’s personal characteristics — their biometric information.