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Prevent fraud without compromising the customer experience

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By Jamie Melling, Chief Executive Officer, Smartnumbers

In the first six months of 2021, cases of identity fraud surged by a staggering 11%, a total of some 180,000 individual cases. This is an all-too-familiar pattern we’ve seen many times before during times of economic and social disruption — most notably after the 2008 financial crisis. Fraudsters thrive on uncertainty and the last two years have certainly seen plenty of that.

These fraud cases take place across a wide range of channels including internet, telephone, email, social media and contact centres. But when you look behind the surface, you find that the contact centre is becoming an increasingly important tool in a fraudster’s arsenal when trying to exploit other channels. In fact, according to Aite, some 61% of total fraud attacks pass through the contact centre at some stage.

This creates a difficult challenge for contact centres looking to reduce fraud while also cutting down wait times and enabling a smooth customer experience. After all, no contact centre wants to keep customers waiting longer than necessary. So, how can organisations effectively detect fraudsters in the contact centre without burdening genuine customers with long waiting times and endless security questions?

As fraud cases continue to rise, this issue becomes more and more acute for contact centres everywhere. But with the right fraud prevention strategy and technology, it is possible to strike the right balance. Here are five things banks can do to prevent fraud while keeping customers happy.

The right solution for the right interaction

According to Accenture, UK contact centres saw a 400% increase in calls for services since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, and the number of difficult calls doubled. Just like with rising fraud cases, this is to be expected during economic uncertainty. But it does make it that much more difficult for contact centres to fend off fraud attempts without frustrating customers with endless security checks.

So, where does that leave the battle against criminals?It’s important to think carefully about where the risk of fraud exists and consider which fraud prevention tactics are needed in which situation. Asking every caller a long list of knowledge-based questions regardless of their query isn’t necessarily the best solution – because it creates unnecessary friction.

This is where technologies like multi-factor authentication, voice biometrics and caller ID analysis can come in handy.   By using these tools to detect potential fraudsters, contact centre agents can ask fewer security questions to fewer customers — creating a smoother journey for genuine customers and shorter waiting times for everybody.

Contact centre authentication tools must be smarter

One of the most important rules to remember about fraud prevention is this: no single tool, technology or solution is infallible. Criminals are constantly developing new fraud methods and often use different tactics and different channels to reach their final goal. That’s why a layered approach is so vital, combining the benefits of different solutions and tactics.

For instance, many contact centres put caller ID and knowledge-based authentication (KBA) questions in their interactive voice response (IVR) systems to help authenticate callers before they speak to an agent. But a fraudster can get around this by spoofing their phone number and remain silent during the Interactive Voice Response (IVR). Once they’ve made it through to an agent they can use information garnered from social media to pass further KBA questions and then manipulate the agent into revealing more information that they can use elsewhere.

It’s critical, therefore, that contact centres adopt a range of different tools and solutions to prevent fraud and ensure there are no shortcuts through the customer journey that could allow fraudsters to bypass them. This means implementing a multi-layer strategy, and leveraging smarter tools – like voice biometrics and pre-answer caller authentication – to help maximise the chance of fraudsters being identified.

Protect customers’ personal information

A popular tactic for fraudsters is to manipulate contact centre agents into accidentally revealing important information that can help them commit fraud through other channels.

Armed with personal information purchased from the dark web or gleaned from social media, fraudsters call the contact centre, posing as the customer. They then use  manipulation tactics, perhaps building a rapport using flattery, telling a sad story to garner sympathy, or even threatening the agent’s job to instil fear.

Even the best contact centre agents are susceptible to human error, particularly if they’re under a lot of pressure to complete calls quickly and provide a pleasant customer experience.

The best way to avoid this is to make sure agents don’t have access to sensitive personal information before the caller has been authenticated. This reduces the chance of them accidentally leaking important information.

Create a security-focused culture

To reduce human error, it’s increasingly important for contact centres to foster a security-focused culture. Security and fraud prevention can no longer belong in the domain of security personnel alone; call agents all need to understand the risks and know how to put best security practices into motion. Regular and thorough agent training is a vital way of ensuring workers remain vigilant at all times.

This can be a difficult pivot for many agents, especially since they’re incentivised to complete calls quickly and to keep the customer happy. But a security culture requires constant care and investment to create sustainability and accountability. Ongoing awareness programmes enable agents to learn the warning signs of behavioural manipulation and have the confidence to deal with it in a manner that doesn’t upset authentic customers or let fraudsters know they’re under suspicion.

Integrate telephony risk signals into your fraud detection platform

Fraud detection and customer authentication have traditionally been treated as two separate entities, where online fraud detection (OFD) platforms often lack telephony risk signals, such as a caller’s ID, their location, and even their calling history. This creates a blind spot when it comes to a customer’s behaviour and prevents contact centres from building a holistic risk profile.

Telephony risk signals have the potential to be a real game changer for contact centres looking to create a smoother customer experience and prevent fraud. That’s because they can use this call-signalling information to identify suspicious callers before the calls even connect to the IVR or an agent.

This authenticates genuine customers quicker, improves the customer experience and stops fraudsters from getting the information they need to commit fraud. Combined with other key methods, this can make a real difference to how contact centres tackle the fraud challenge.

Maintaining customer experience in the face of adversity

Uncertainty has created an environment ripe for fraud. Criminals are armed with increasingly advanced methods to take advantage of any weakness, whether it’s using illicitly gathered information or social engineering agents. That said, it’s in times of change that customers most need support, and that means the contact centre caller experience cannot be compromised.

To navigate this complex landscape, contact centres need to create an effective, customer-centric fraud prevention strategy. By taking some simple, key steps, from giving agents the right training and implementing the right technology, banks can better defend their contact centres and be prepared to take on any challenge the future might throw them.

Global Banking & Finance Review


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