Public awareness is the foundation of fighting fraud: Bank Muscat

Muscat, Nov 11 – As technology progresses at an ever increasing pace, fraudsters across the globe are constantly finding new ways to exploit people for financial gain, especially by scamming people out of their hard-earned money. Such cybercrimes often cause enormous financial and material losses for the victims as well as the economy. The Royal Oman Police (ROP) and Bank Muscat recently launched an anti-fraud public awareness campaign in the Sultanate to tackle instances of cyber fraud.

Amjad al Lawati, (pictured) assistant general manager — cards and e-banking at Bank Muscat, spoke to Oman Observer about the campaign and stressed on how public awareness among all people in the sultanate, both citizens and residents, is the foundation of the constant fight against fraud.

Al Lawati told the Oman Observer that the bank has invested millions of rials over the last few years to implement the latest, cutting-edge IT programmes, systems and procedures in its efforts to fight cyber fraud. However, as technological advances and cutting edge systems make banking platforms extremely resistant to direct hacking attempts, fraudsters are increasingly using social engineering by tricking victims into sharing their personal details to commit fraud.

The latest initiative to fight fraud in partnership with Royal Oman Police focuses on educating not just the bank’s customers but all the people living in Oman about the importance of never sharing their personal details or their banking/card details with anyone over the phone or input these on links received through social media or messaging. The bank has also requested those who are technologically savvy to play an active role in educating their family and friends, particularly the elderly, on the importance of not sharing any personal details over the phone or on suspicious links.

Al Lawati explained that earlier fraudsters would try to extract card details and personal details from unsuspecting people in the guise of letting them know that they had won a prize or that they were calling from the bank to transfer funds into the account etc. Using the customer details thus collected, the fraudster would quickly transfer funds out of the victim’s account before anyone realised what was happening.

Bank Muscat has implemented several security measures designed to stop this fraud in its tracks. For example, the bank’s mobile app can now be used only if the customer installs it on a smartphone having the correct SIM card (with the GSM number registered with Bank Muscat) present in it during the transaction. Moreover, the bank has implemented a 30 minute “cooling off period” after the registration of any new beneficiary, during which no fund transfers are allowed to that beneficiary. Also as soon as a new beneficiary is registered in a customer’s account,

Bank Muscat immediately messages the account holder about the new beneficiary registration.
Bank Muscat has similarly gone the extra mile to protect against fraudulent online transactions by partnering with VISA and Mastercard to use two-factor authentication in the form of 3D Secure OTPs that have to be entered within a few minutes of initiating an online transaction, failing which the transaction is declined. The bank has also put in place multiple levels of fraud monitoring including having a dedicated fraud-monitoring team, which continuously monitors all online transactions 24×7 to prevent fraudulent activities.

These measures are proving to be extremely useful in tackling cyber fraud, added Amjad al Lawati. However, some customers are still unaware of the importance of these measures as well as the fact that they should never share personal details online or with any caller even if they claim to be bank or telecom employees or are supposedly handing out prizes for raffle draws. The public should be aware that the bank or anyone else for that matter does not need an account holder’s debit/credit card details as well as PIN and OTP details to transfer a prize into their account.

Bank Muscat has been trying to improve public awareness by sending text and social media messages and advertisements for a long time now. “We request the customers never to share any such personal details online or with any caller so as to avoid falling victim to these frauds and crimes,” al Lawati added.
The current campaign is being run in partnership with Royal Oman Police for an extended period of time through print and electronic media, social media as well as multiple events and activities including Al Mazyona draws, seminars and lectures at institutions across the Sultanate. The bank is working with a number of external partners including VISA and Mastercard as well as multiple internal teams to make sure that all attempts to defraud customers are monitored and prevented in real-time.

Al Lawati also took the opportunity to thank the Royal Oman Police for the strong partnership and cooperation in organising this comprehensive awareness campaign to enhance public awareness amongst all people in Oman. He stressed that prevention of cyber fraud is the responsibility of all and requested help from both citizens and residents to help increase awareness in Oman and also to report any suspicious activities immediately.