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N6.2bn lost to electronic fraud in 2014 – Onajite

By on April 15, 2015

The Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the Electronic Payment Providers Association of Nigeria, Mrs. Regha Onajite, in this interview with OZIOMA UBABUKOH, stresses the need for bank customers to be security-conscious when carrying out electronic transactions, among sundry other issues.

What are the key initiatives that have been taken in recent times to improve electronic payment system in Nigeria?

There has been a lot of improvement on the payment chain industry. One of the major things that have happened in the industry is the inauguration of the Payment System Strategy Board by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, and we also have four payment systems boards inaugurated and nine initiatives working groups and four special interest groups.

All of these inaugurations are to help deepen the financial system and to improve on what we have been doing as a nation concerning the payment system vision 2020. That is a very great move and it has caused a lot of activities within the payment system. Stakeholders in the industry have now formed themselves into one working group or the other, trying to make things happen, trying to ensure that the payment system is better off than we have always had especially in terms of seamless transactions and improved security.

Apart from this, what other initiatives have been implemented in the electronic payment industry?

Well, we also have the implementation of the central anti-fraud system that is hosted in the Nigeria Interbank Settlement Systems and as we talk, the pilot has already started and there are transactions currently going on there. Some banks are signing up for transactions on the central anti-fraud system.

Also, within the industry, the Nigerian Electronic Fraud Forum has come up with a lot of initiatives one of which, and of great interest, is the plan to implement the Security Operation Centre. This will be implemented and ride on a new organisation that would be set up by the central bank within the Bankers’ Committee. The plans are also ongoing to establish a central risk information centre, which takes care of banking risk in the country.

To what extent would you say the issue of electronic fraud has been tackled in Nigeria to boost customer confidence in the system?

The industry has implemented a lot of activities to checkmate fraud. But you know as more and more transactions go electronic, we have increase in fraud and just as we know that fraud migrates to the side that is less secure, we know that as everybody struggles to improve his or her security, the fraudsters will also increase to see how they can break into people’s data to get their information.

We would say that in 2014, we had increased fraud over 2013. For instance, Nigeria witnessed actual loss value of N6.2bn to different cases of electronic frauds last year, according to a fraud report obtained from the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System. While the transaction value through the central switch system is around N40tn. In 2013, both the value of transactions and value of fraud cases were lower. But then, a lot of measures are being put in place to checkmate e-frauds.

There have been concerns in recent times on the increase in cases of phishing where bank customers have been losing money?

When you talk about phishing, we know it is when people send false emails, make false representations, junks pretending to be genuine as if they are trustworthy entities and then, they are able to deceive people and make them part with their money and entities. When you talk of phishing, we have seen these criminals create an impression that they are genuine entities and from that impression, they are able to harvest people’s emails details such as account and PINs and all of that to be able to cheat people out of their money. So, that is what phishing is all about. Interestingly, the only way we can deal with phishing is for people to be well informed of what these fraudsters are doing and when you are informed, you would be able to guard yourself and protect your personal details. The question is what are the various manifestations of phishing? The phishers either send you an ordinary email, claiming to be who they are not, asking you to provide your details to them. People are not aware that this may be fraudulent and that when they get such emails, they don’t respond.

Criminals have also now improved on their techniques. What they do now is to create a website that looks like the customer’s bank’s website and then, they ask you to fill in your details online. So, when you fill in your details online, they are able to get those personal details, your passwords, your mails and all of that.

What are the measures that can be taken to ensure that bank customers are shielded from phishers?

What people need to do is to be vigilant and be able to protect themselves from these phishing websites. Banks are doing a lot because on a daily basis, they pull down these phishing websites. So, what people need to do is to be cautious when they receive these emails and check who the senders of the emails are. If the sender is not recognised, then bank customers should not put any details in there; they should not respond but delete it as soon as possible. Then, they should not communicate personal information via any unsecure sites. Even if you want to give any detail to your bank, make sure you initiate the call; you know your bank’s numbers. If anybody calls you on a telephone number that he is calling from your bank, we would advise the customers not to divulge any personal information. We should know that increased personal security measures are needed to be observed by Nigerian banking public to safeguard themselves against e-frauds.

What has been the level of e-payment adoption in the public sector vis-a-vis the volume in the private sector?

What I will say is that electronic transactions have been growing and it will still grow more as we begin to implement, in a short while, the limits in every state of the federation. People are beginning to understand that the cashless scheme is not for the benefit of the government but it affects them positively as well. In terms of volume in 2014, we can say that we had over 100 million transactions from NIBSS report that we have on the electronic platforms.

Finally, E-PPAN is currently planning the maiden edition of its e-Government Summit in Nigeria. What are the objectives of the conference?

The e-government summit is actually a flagship programme of E-PPAN and what we are going to do this year is going to be very big. Previously, E-PPAN held the e-payment for government summit. With that summit, we were able to raise awareness of the benefits of the use of electronic payment to the government. Usually, when you bring electronic payment into the payment system, you find that it becomes more efficient for citizens to interact with the government. But this year, we decided that we would like to expand what we have been doing over the past three years and we are fortunate to have partnership with FSS 2020 of the CBN. So, what we are looking out for this year is e-government as a key sustainable development and we are partnering with FSS 2020 for this summit.