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Staying safe when using financial apps and technology

Staying safe when using financial apps and technology 36

With more people doing more things online, understanding the risks as well as the opportunities is essential. Whether you’re thinking of banking online or just want to learn more about the risks and how to mitigate against them, this page will walk you through everything you need to know.

Jamie Kavanagh

Jamie Kavanagh

With banks closing branches all the time, online banking is now mainstream. Whether cause or effect, online banking and banking apps are taking over from the brick and mortar branches and every bank has their own app. But how secure are they? Jamie Kavanagh, a Contributor at Broadband Genie talks through what the risks are when using them and what you can do if you have been a victim of online fraud.

Potential risks with financial apps and the internet in general

There are a number of risk factors with internet banking, apps and general internet use. These risk should never put you off using the web as it really is a force for good but you should always be aware of the potential risks you may face.

Common risks online can include:

  • Viruses and malware
  • Phishing
  • Spyware
  • Ransomware
  • Eavesdropping
  • Targeted attacks

Let’s take a quick look at each…

Viruses and malware

Viruses and malware are probably the oldest computer threats. Viruses are much rarer now as hackers have shifted towards malware and ransomware but they are still out there. Viruses and malware will infect your device through a download of some kind and will usually delete all your files or otherwise render them inaccessible.

Phishing

Phishing describes an email that pretends to be from your bank, government, tax office or other official entity. They are usually very realistic and look exactly like the real thing. These will include a URL of some kind that will take you to a realistic looking web page where you will be asked to enter account details or other private information.

Spyware

Spyware is a type of malware that spies on you. It usually includes a key-logger or something that records keystrokes to try to collect usernames and passwords. The spyware will then secretly send this data back to a central server to be used in crime.

Ransomware

Ransomware is relatively new but evil. It works like malware and downloads onto your device. Rather than destroying your data, it will encrypt it and hold you to ransom. It will demand payment in cryptocurrency to unlock your files. There is never a guarantee of your data being unlocked even if you pay.

Eavesdropping

Eavesdropping is where someone sets up a fake WiFi hotspot or hacks your wireless networks and collects all the traffic on it. This can provide them with logins, credit card details and all manner of private information.

Targeted attacks

Targeted attacks differ from all the above. Rather than a hacker throwing their net wide to see who they can catch, a targeted attack will focus on you. They will learn everything there is to know about you and will try to trick you into giving them information such as account details, name, address or whatever they need to steal your identity.

Staying safe online

Don’t let that list of potential risks put you off as there are simple ways to combat all of them. Some involve using tools while others use behaviours. Either way, follow the suggestions to avoid 99% of internet risks.

Keep your devices up to date

Whatever device you use and whatever applications you have installed, keeping everything up to date is essential. Most operating systems will manage updates automatically. Most applications will also automatically update when one is available. Regularly check to make sure as updates will contain security fixes that can protect against risks. Don’t neglect firmware updates for hardware, either, especially vital devices such as Wi-Fi routers.

Always download apps from official app stores

In the case of any app but especially financial or banking apps, always make sure to use a legitimate source. That could be downloading from the bank directly or from Google Play

Store or the Apple App Store. Don’t download from anywhere else.

Always use security software

Every device you use should have a software firewall and antivirus running at all times. Computers should also have a malware scanner. These programs should always be set to automatically scan and automatically update. Some programs are free while others will cost money. The free programs have the same level of protection but fewer features. You do not compromise protection by using free security.

Use strong unique passwords

Every website you log into will use a password as part of account security. The importance of a strong password that is unique to that login and not used anywhere else cannot be overstated. It is essential to make the password as strong as possible and to never use it elsewhere. There are password managers available which allow you to securely store all your logins without having to remember the details for each.

Use multi-factor authentication wherever possible

If a website or app you use offers multi-factor authentication (MFA), use it. This is a valuable extra protection. It requires an extra step to log into your account, such as a random code sent to your phone, but can make it much more difficult to hack an account. Without that MFA code, even if a hacker had your username and password they would not be able to log in. It’s a free but very useful extra security measure.

Enable account notifications

Many web apps and websites have the option to notify you via email of logins or suspicious activity. Always have these enabled. Should your details be hacked, you will be notified of any access by email or text and can act quickly to prevent any loss or damage to that account or quickly change your password.

Use Wi-Fi safely

Wi-Fi is a risk as it’s possible for data to be intercepted. But it’s too useful to avoid using altogether, so you can get a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your device to encrypt all your data. VPNs create a secure tunnel between your device and the VPN server that protects your data. Even if you accidentally connect to a fake Wi-Fi hotspot, your traffic is unreadable so is useless to the hacker.

Watch where you surf

Being aware of where you are on the internet is essential. Always check the URL, hover your cursor over a URL on a page or in an email to check it before clicking it and make sure you always use trusted websites. Be very cautious if a site is not encrypted using HTTPS. This will be indicated in the web browser URL bar, and if it’s not then your data could be at risk. Never enter any kind of information into a site which is not protected with HTTPS.

Know how to remote lock or erase your phone

If you use financial apps, banking apps or have personal data on your phone, it makes sense to familiarise yourself with the remote locking and erasure feature. Android and Apple both have a feature to remotely locate, lock or wipe your phone in case yours is lost or stolen.

What to do if you’re a victim of cybercrime

If you find yourself a victim of cybercrime, there are things you need to do to protect yourself. Exactly what depends on what has happened. The one universal requirement is to act quickly.

Be proactive

If you’re subject to any kind of crime or hacking online, you have to be proactive about the situation. That means actively changing affected passwords, contacting any related organisation, stopping credit cards, informing your bank and alerting the necessary authorities.

Here are some practical tips for actions to take:

  • If your security program detects spyware, scan your system and allow it to clean the device.
  • If you suspect you have received a phishing email, delete it and never click a link within it.
  • If you think you have landed on a fraudulent website, close your web browser and perform a full antivirus and malware scan.
  • If you are subject to a ransomware request, don’t pay. Wipe your device and rebuild it or have a professional do it.
  • If your bank alerts you to strange behaviour on your account, independently verify and then phone your bank or credit card company using the number on the card.
  • If you see strange debits on any account, alert the bank, change associated passwords and report the fraud to police.

Prevention is always better than cure but it isn’t always possible to avoid risks on the internet completely. If you follow the advice in this article, you will avoid the vast majority of risks out there and be able to enjoy the internet in the way it was originally designed to be enjoyed. Good luck out there!

Finance

Akerton Partners

Akerton Partners 37

Akerton Partners S.L. is a Spanish independent mid-market corporate finance advisor founded over a decade ago, in 2008, amid a global financial crisis.A group of professionals with extensive industrial and financial experience, decided to start providing clients with the value added necessary in situations where specialization, experience, commitment and know how make the difference. The firm specializes in providing financial advice to companies, their shareholders, investors, and lenders.

Akerton´s team has an extensive business background, which allows them to understand client´s needs as well as put itself in their shoes to reach the most appropriate solution under all available options in the market. Since one size does not fit all, Akerton tries not only try to find a good solution but ensure that it is the best one by performing a deep analysis of the company and its financial situation. Each case needs to be considered independently and from a variety of angles in order to identify and execute original and feasible solutions.A simple or single solution is not Akerton’s aim.Their independence and motivation for establishing long-term relationships with clients, allow them to always place their interests before their own, something that eliminates barriers and creates lasting relationships.

Currently, Akerton offers its services through the below business units:

Financing services to borrowers, investors, and creditors, on the design, structuring, negotiation, follow up, and control of long and short-term financing, including raising, refinancing, and renegotiating debt:

  • Debt refinancing and restructuring.
  • Finding and obtaining financing via debt or equity
    (corporate, leveraged, subordinated, mezzanine, direct lending, sale and lease back option, amongst others).Public incentives.
  • IBR’s and NPL’s portfolios analysis
  • Debt acquisition.

Financing department represents 170 closed deals, 6 transactions under management and more than 2.272 M€ of debt amount.

Corporate finance,to corporates, private equity, family offices, and family businesses on all aspects of buy-side and sell-side , as well as the rendering of services related to financial strategy, business plan elaboration, business valuation and interim management in connection with budget and business plan compliance:

  • Mergers and acquisitions (M&A): acquisition of company or asset, partners search, divestments of company, strategic alliances…
  • Valuation: assessment of businesses or companies, earn outs and deferred payments schemes under a traditional process, valuation of companies in the framework of a debt portfolio acquisition process.
  • Strategy: management continuity plans, strategic and business plans, management support to reach goals.

Corporate finance line represents 38 closed deals, 11 transactions under management and more than 570 M€ value.

Expert Advice and Due Diligence on processes and transactions requiring the verification and ratification of economic, financial, and accounting information including Financial Due Diligence in sale or purchase transactions (provided Akerton Partners is not the advisor of one of the parties to avoid a conflict of interest); as well as the elaboration of expert and economic reports in order to support law-suits and disputes:

  • Financial due diligence for M&A transactions.
  • Counselling for the defense and analysis of opposing expert reports, and elaboration of adversary expert reports.
  • Economic reports for disputes and arbitrations and their ratification.
  • Reports: validate CAPEX, economic ratios, PPA process, Impairment Test.

This line represents 196 closed deals and 9 transactions under management.

Real Estate and Infrastructures, for companies, investment funds, SOCIMIs and Family Offices to evaluate Real Estate assets by analyzing their portfolios and investment alternatives, granting differential and extra elements that add extra values:

  • Analysis of Real Estate portfolios, projects and its development.
  • Infrastructures:
    • Demand due diligence
    • Market studies
    • Operating and strategic planning and feasibility analysis

This business line represents 49 close deals, 4 transactions under management, 0,6M certified parking spaces and more than 1.2B€ revenue amount.

Public incentives, in the form of non-refundable grants, reduced or zero interest rate loans, as well as the application of deductions and exemptions in the Corporate Income Tax for R&D&I activities, transference of know-how or investments in assets, including those with an environmental improvement component.

  • Grants/ subsidies
  • Fiscal deductions
  • Transfer of know-how: identification and quantification of R&D&I costs and design and implementation of transfer processes.

Team values are applied in every job, taking the best expertise of each individual to obtain a final global output. Counting on a multidisciplinary team enables to provide a global solution throughout the entire operation. Akerton’s professionals have developed a strong reputation based on experience, dedication and integrity, and its in-depth knowledge and longstanding experience in the industrial field allows them to have a rapid understanding of any client’s issues.

One of the main values Akerton owns is that its independence allows the company to put its clients’ interests first, above all other considerations, which let them remove any barrier and create continuous relationships with them. There are no restrictions, conflict of interest or other constraints to identify the best opportunityduring the process in a closely and congruent way, in accordance with client’s objectives and until achievement of financial close (turnkey contract).

Routine is not an option at Akerton. Commitment is other of its main values that is important to highlight. The firm builds a differential relationship of closeness and trust with its clients, able to maximize process achievement. And success as advisors is closely linked to client success.

As previously stated, Akerton was born during a financial crisis and it is important to mention that the company is living a second one, despite its short life, as a consequence of Covid-19. Nonetheless, the firm has rapidly adapted to this new environment, implementing all necessary measures to avoid business interruption such as working remotely and supporting its clients through different alternatives such as measuring financial impact of Covid, analyzing short term liquidity , providing mitigating factors or identifying all available financing tools such as managing and requesting “ICO loans”.

Once more, and additionally to the above features of the firm, Akerton shows its strong spirit as a corporate finance company, able to successfully overcome financial crises and add value to clients.

In order to find out further details of Akerton Partners, the following website can be visited: www.akerton.com.

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Finance

SCA Deadline is Nearing: is the Market Prepared?

SCA Deadline is Nearing: is the Market Prepared? 38

Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) – the latest security standard in the EU’s payments regulation – has been keeping market players on their toes. Business readiness to support it is becoming an increasingly pressing matter due to the rapidly approaching enforcement deadline, as well as rising levels in e-commerce fraud. 

August 5th, 2020. Strong Customer Authentication, or SCA, has officially gone into effect on the 14th of September, 2019. However, with the market being unprepared to roll out the necessary changes till the priorly set date, the European Banking Authority has pushed the final deadline to 31st of December, 2020, with a few exceptions for an even later time in 2021. As the cut-off time approaches, so is the moment of truth: has the extended period enabled market players to adapt to the new regulation?

For those out of the loop, the SCA law states mandatory two-factor authentication for all online transactions and contactless payments made within the EU. Given the fact that, globally, e-commerce scams have been rising – the pandemic has played its part in the matter – the new reform is expected to provide an extra layer of security for customers.

In April 2020, the fraud attempt rate based on transaction value rose by 13%, compared to the same timeframe in 2019, emphasizing the favorable timeliness of the regulation. However, without proper preparation on both ends of the transaction, the enforced requirements are likely to result in increased friction, rather than weeding out scammers.

Marius Galdikas, CTO at ConnectPay, notes that there are still many questioning why and how exactly will this affect them. “Businesses and PSPs were not ready to handle the high volume traffic alongside setting up the new safeguards, hence the EBA’s permitted delay. A number of them, mostly SMBs, are still unaware of the SCA’s true impact on their activities,” he stated.

To reduce the number of confused shoppers, declined payments, and abandoned shopping carts, Mr. Galdikas advised getting on the path of SCA compliance should be the north star of every vendor’s current roadmap to prevent losing a great deal of sales. “What should not be overlooked is that SCA encompasses not just 2FA, but much more, including dynamic linking and proper messaging to the customer about operations being authorized.”

Although SCA compliance should be at the top of everyone’s mind, it is overshadowed by the current global landscape. Vendors are still wrestling with the consequences of the pandemic, trying to raise profits after months of imposed lockdown, and, with the deadline closing in, some described this European Commission’s law as “kicking retailers while they’re down”.

That said, in April the global e-commerce retail sales reached 209 percent year-over-year revenue growth. According to Mr. Galdikas, despite the adverse circumstances, implementing SCA-related changes is imperative in terms of avoiding the precipitous levels of fraud, rising alongside increasing profits.

And yet, there are a few moments the policy failed to observe, for example, making bulk payments – transactions to multiple beneficiaries from a single bank account – and the intricacies concerning their approval. “Each payment order has a unique ID and requires distinct PIN codes to verify them. However, generating many PINs – and fast – becomes tricky, especially for banks still running on legacy systems, which are not up to speed to SCA requirements.”

Mr. Galdikas noted the urge to move SCA up the list of priorities for merchants and PSPs to prevent transactional errors, mentioning ConnectPay has already done so in early May. It released an App, which covers multi-factor authentication and one-tap approvals for payments, and is also the basis for numerous innovations to come.

The new SCA requirements may still be a head-scratcher for businesses, banks and consumers alike, hence the importance to give it the necessary attention – to avoid vital steps being lost in translation.

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Finance

While COVID-19 payment holiday schemes have safeguarded against credit score drops, what do they mean for the lending sector?

While COVID-19 payment holiday schemes have safeguarded against credit score drops, what do they mean for the lending sector? 39

By Justin Basini, CEO and Co-Founder of ClearScore, the UK’s leading free credit score and credit marketplace

During the coronavirus pandemic, the government and financial bodies such as the FCA have provided a temporary financial safety net for consumers. Beginning in March, and extended in June, six-month payment holidays are in place for mortgages and loans (including car finance), as well as for credit cards and interest-free overdrafts. To date, payment holidays have been granted on 1.9 million mortgages, 961,700 credit cards and 688,900 personal loans[1]. A further 27 million interest-free overdrafts have also been granted. Whilst these schemes have undoubtedly provided essential financial relief for millions during the pandemic, they are not limitless, and as they draw to a close in October, consumers will have to resume repayments if they don’t want to become delinquent and negatively affect their credit score. Whilst analysing potential drops in credit scores gives us an idea of how payment schemes have impacted individuals’ personal finances, these schemes will have far-reaching implications for the lending sector as a whole, as credit providers continue to balance their exposure to risk once these schemes come to an end.

Our research into payment holidays shows that, perhaps surprisingly, only 11% of people have taken advantage of payment holidays, with another 4% planning to. Of those that have already utilised payment holidays, the majority have done so as a precaution, with just 35% of people doing so because they were unable to afford their credit card repayments, 28% as they were unable to afford their mortgage repayments, and 32% as they were unable to afford their personal loan repayments. With the majority of borrowers taking out payment holidays as a precaution, it follows that most should be able to afford their repayments once their payment holiday has come to an end. It also highlights that up to a third of people are likely to still require financial support if they are to avoid falling into problem debt, delinquencies and in the worst cases, repossessions or bankruptcy. With the furlough scheme also coming to an end in October, we can expect a further rise in unemployment, and further strain on specific segments and their ability to keep up with agreed payments.

When asked ‘How urgent was it to take out a payment holiday on a mortgage, credit card, personal loan or car finance?’
 Credit Card Mortgage Personal LoanCar Finance
Extremely,

I could not afford repayments

35%28%32%30%
Somewhat,

I could afford repayments, but only just

50%53%50%57%
Not very,

I could afford repayments but did it as a precaution only

15%19%18%13%

*Data based on nationally representative sample of 3,000 respondents

Consumers who signed up to take advantage of payment holidays for loans, credit cards and mortgages from the start of these schemes in March could have faced an average drop of 104 points to their credit scores over the initial three month period had they not been able to make repayments. Therefore, if these schemes had not been extended, millions of people could have been left with black marks against their credit histories that take six years to come off a credit report. With payment holiday schemes now extended to the end of October, someone who would be unable to pay their bills on their loans, credit cards and mortgage for the entire six months would have seen their credit score drop by a staggering 124 points. This potential drop in credit score over six months demonstrates just how essential these payment holiday schemes have been in safeguarding the financial well-being of those in the most financial distress due to the coronavirus pandemic. With the potential reduction of credit scores, this could reduce access to credit products, and certainly mean that people will end up paying more for products such as loans and credit cards. It is essential that lenders are as flexible and open as possible with their financial products as consumer spending will play a critical role in economic recovery from COVID-19.

The average ClearScore credit score in the UK is 360 (out of a possible 700). The table below demonstrates the credit score cliff edge that consumers could have faced without the introduction and further extension of payment holidays, with the average potential impact following a missed credit card, loan or mortgage repayment over the course of one, three and six months. The three-month column shows what could have happened to those unable to pay over the course of the next three months, had payment holiday schemes not been extended. The six-month column demonstrates what could have happened if the schemes were not introduced at all.

Credit productAverage drop in credit score with one-month delinquencyAverage drop in credit score with three-months delinquencyAverage drop in credit score with six-months delinquency
Credit card21 points47 points61 points
Loan33 points47 points44 points
Mortgage7 points32 points53 points
Credit card, loan and mortgage50 points104 points124 points

**Data taken from ClearScore users who were up to date with all their payments in the year before lockdown (March 19 – Feb 20)*

Whilst taking advantage of these schemes won’t directly affect credit scores, it is likely to have an impact on future access to credit. While on the whole, payment holidays have undoubtedly been good news for consumers in financial hardship, they have placed additional strain on the lending sector, with lenders shouldering the burden of reduced cash flow as payments are put on hold. Lenders have been forced to tighten their lending criteria due to uncertainty in the market since the beginning of the pandemic, not least because many consumers’ ability to repay debt has been reduced due to instability in the employment market. Whilst lenders and providers are responding to the contraction of the market with a decrease in the number of products on offer, higher APRs and LTV offerings – making credit less accessible to consumers – these actions increase the likelihood of consumers’ ability to repay the debt they’re taking out.

Our research shows the number of prime credit card products available for prime customers decreased substantially from an average of 5.28 on the 1st of January 2020, to just 2.25 products on the 16th of May, whilst the average number of loan products available to prime customers decreased from 4.26 products to just 1.79 for the same time period. Lenders have started to implement new technologies for assessing affordability rather than relying solely on credit scores and reports to ensure sustainable and safe lending practises, whilst not restricting credit unfairly. The contraction of the lending market to date already shows the lasting impact that income instability from COVID-19 and subsequent payment holidays could have on the UK’s lending landscape.

Lending is ultimately a commercial decision, with lenders able to set their own criteria, aligning with their appetite for risk. Whilst credit files will show that payments are up to date if consumers have taken advantage of payment holiday schemes, lenders are within their rights to bring other factors into their affordability assessments. With the introduction of payment holidays, and the fact that credit report data can be up to three months out of date, lenders are having to shift to new data to ensure their affordability assessments are fair, up to date and a true reflection of someone’s ability to afford credit. For example, many lenders are increasing the rate of adoption of open banking as a result, giving lenders a clearer picture of a person’s suitability for credit by granting them visibility of their verified income source, other financial obligations and day-by-day spending patterns.

Along with open banking, lenders are beginning to add new questions and required information to their affordability assessments to help them create an accurate picture of someone’s ability to afford credit. This can include bank account information, whether an individual has taken a payment holiday, how susceptible an industry is to redundancies, and whether an individual has been furloughed. For the majority of consumers who took out payment holidays on their credit cards, loans, mortgages and car finance just as a precaution, rather than a necessity, these tightening of lending criteria could have a large impact as payment holiday schemes were designed only to be used when absolutely necessary. Whilst it stands that payment holidays will not affect credit scores or show up on credit reports, those who took payment holidays as a precaution are likely to find their future access to credit restricted unnecessarily, as they could have afforded their agreed financial obligations. Our advice to our users through the crisis has been to only access payment holdiays when absolutely necessary.

With the closing of the furlough scheme coinciding with the end of payment holidays in October, and unemployment forecasts hitting 4 million for the first time in UK history, responsible lending is going to become an increasingly critical lifeline for some people. The adoption of open banking and implementation of more detailed affordability assessments should help to ensure that the maximum number of consumers possible will still have access to credit in the coming months. Now is the time for lenders to incorporate these new technical capabilities to allow for the flow of data, and the continuing health of the lending market.

No one can know for sure what the credit industry and consumers’ financial well-being will look like at the end of 2020, but even with payment holiday schemes currently in place, what’s apparent is that the divide between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ will continue to grow. Those who struggled financially, especially younger consumers, at the start of the pandemic will bear the brunt of tighter lending criteria and a contraction of low interest products. The third of people taking payment holidays as a necessity due to not being able to afford repayments face a financial cliff edge when these schemes are withdrawn at the end of October. At the same time, those who took out payment holidays as a precaution rather than necessity are likely to find themselves also falling foul of tighter affordability assessments, restricting their access to credit.

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