A local bank has issued a warning against fraudulent activity as Covid-19-related bank scams continue to rise around the world.
Walter Henry, the senior intelligence analyst at the Financial Intelligence Unit, said the global trend is also being felt in Cook Islands, prompting the government and the banking sector to increase its outreach efforts.
“What the banks are saying is their customers are receiving a lot of spam emails referring to online shopping sites, telemarketing and phishing scams,” Henry said.
Phishing attacks are used to steal sensitive data such as login credentials, passwords, credit card details and debit card numbers.
These attacks are devised by individuals who masquerade as a trusted entity such as a bank, insurance, or online retailer, conning their victims into opening an email or text message before divulging their sensitive data.
The uptick in sophisticated scams prompted the Bank of the Cook Islands to post a message to its customers on Facebook this month, warning of suspicious or fraudulent debit card transactions posted to their accounts.
“There are many different types of card fraud, and at its simplest, it’s when someone obtains your card details and makes transactions using your card without you knowing,” the warning reads.
With lockdowns and travel restrictions being imposed by governments to prevent the spread of Covid-19, online shopping around the world has increased as fraudsters becoming more active to try to steal personal banking information.
One US-based financial service company that assists American banks with fraud monitoring reported a 35 per cent increase in fraudulent transactions during April, with the trend continuing throughout 2020.
Bank of the South Pacific also has a security alert posted on its Cook Islands website, warning that hoax emails are in circulation.
“Although they may appear genuine, they are fraudulent and have not been sent by BSP,” the alert reads.
To minimise the risk of fraud, local banks are advising their customers to ensure the addresses of the websites they visit have a padlock symbol at the beginning, indicating the website is encrypted and has a level of security to protect sensitive data from being stolen.
Suspicious emails should also be scrutinised and customers are advised not to click on any links. The emails should be deleted promptly after notifying their bank. Additionally, customers are urged not to use public wifi when doing online banking.