The world over, fraud is a major concern for both individuals and companies. The complexity of fraud changes every day and billions of Pula are lost to fraudsters on a yearly basis.
First National Bank Botswana, the country’s largest bank, is well alive to this. This explains why more resources are channeled towards guarding customers against financial fraud. No one within the bank is better placed to talk about fraud other than the bank’s Chief Risk Officer (CRO), Lesego Bannalotlhe. Her major role is to oversee the bank’s structures that deal with legal, fraud and operational risks. Bannalotlhe was appointed to the important position in 2016, after holding several senior positions within the bank.
“The environment we work in is very agile. We have to ensure that we are always one step ahead of fraudsters,” Bannalotlhe told Botswana Guardian by phone on Wednesday. “Fraudsters are highly educated and sophisticated individuals,” she disclosed, adding that fraudsters do a lot of research and background checks before hitting unsuspecting targets.
According to the bank’s CRO, who has been within the risk and fraud management sub sector for well over a decade, FNBB has water tight systems and processes which are geared towards ensuring ‘they protect valued customers against any fraud’. In fact, there are a number of well-oiled initiatives that the bank has come up with to ensure clients are protected against any fraud. First and foremost, the bank, renowned for its digital banking and innovation in Botswana, has ensured their award-winning banking platforms are safe and secure at all times. As more and more customers go online for transaction and payment purposes, fraudsters are always on the look to short change them. This explains why they have spent a fortune to ensure, suspicious activities within customers’ accounts are noticed and dealt with almost immediately.
In addition, the bank has also embarked on public education campaigns that educate clients on how to guard themselves against fraud at all times. “Most fraud happens against customers not the bank per se,” she said. Bannalotlhe highlighted to Botswana Guardian that the fraud that has been observed happens mostly within the cyber space. There is email and internet fraud in which fraudsters target customers and third parties banking activities. She said fraudsters are capable of making instructions to banks to make payments. At times, fraudsters will intercept conversations between clients and their suppliers and later use the information for their deceitful gain.
This explains why, FNBB is at the forefront of educating and sensitizing clients that their banking details which include Personal Identification Number (PIN)s and passwords should be kept secret. “Customers are not supposed to share their personal banking information with anyone no matter how close they are,” Bannalotlhe advised. Another form of cybercrime within the banking space is whereby fraudsters create fraudulent websites. Customers should always be careful not to be dragged into these fake websites’ links. Bannalotlhe said that, past experience shows that some customers could be defrauded after ending up in fake websites which pretend to be online shops. “People should be careful not to click on these kinds of sites,” she further advised. The bank’s Chief Risk Officer explained that, customers should always be vigilant and do thorough research before buying anything online.
Botswana’s banking sector, just like elsewhere, has over the years become highly digitalised. This basically means more and more customers are now doing banking on digital platforms. FNBB has a wide range of digital banking platforms, such the FNB App, online and cellphone banking, which are utilized by both retail and corporate clients. Bannalotlhe was quick to point out that, as banks are becoming highly digitalised, fraudsters are also hard at work, devising means to defraud unsuspecting customers. “Fraudsters are very agile. They shift with times and trends. We have noticed more fraud since most of our customers digitized their services e.g., retailers selling goods and services through online platforms due to Covid,” she stated, adding that, fraudsters are intelligent people as some come from professions such as engineering, science among others. “They are not average people.”
FNBB, which has as much as 600 000 customers, has not seen much of fraud affecting customers largely because of their tight systems. The other factor which has contributed to low fraud cases is continuous public education campaigns against fraud. The FNBB Chief Risk Officer has told Botswana Guardian that, on a constant basis, they up-skill the risk and fraud management staff to be in a strong position to be able to deal with the agile fraudsters. In addition, the bank is also working with all government entities which are responsible for combating fraud and financial crimes.
In the coming days, the public will go for Easter Holidays.
Generally, crimes are rifer during holidays. But why is this the case? “I think this happens because most of the time people will be having money and there will be more relaxed and forget to be more cautious. Fraudsters are able to notice this,” she said as a matter of fact. This explains why FNB Botswana has always been on the forefront of sensitizing clients even more during holidays. Campaigns are done through radio, social media, website, print media, FNB App, among others. Similarly, the bank, which is listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange has also made it easy for customers to report any suspected fraudulent activity in their accounts immediately.
Customers can report any fraud using the FNB App, 24-hour contact center (395 9881) toll free 0800 302 302 (all the networks), among others. Bannalotlhe has advised customers to be vigilant during the coming holidays. Among others, cautionary measures for customers are keeping bank details private, guarding online information, accounts monitoring and knowing which third parties have access to their banking information. The FNB App, online banking and cellphone banking enable customers to keep track of their account’s activities at all times.