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Fed up with scammers, Australia’s banks form a biometric squad to battle fraud

Fed up with scammers, Australia’s banks form a biometric squad to battle fraud

Aussie banks are banding together to put fraud in a headlock with the Scam Safe Accord, a “new offensive in the war on scams” that will introduce obligatory biometric checks for the opening of new accounts, says a release from the Australian Banking Association (ABA) and the Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA), which strikes a decidedly triumphant tone.

“The initiatives we launch today are a significant step forward and demonstrate the banking industry’s commitment to fight scams,” says Mike Lawrence, CEO of the Customer Owned COBA. “Preventing scammers from taking the hard-earned money of everyday Australians is a shared responsibility. As scammers work hard to devise new ways to steal money, it’s critical that governments, industry and consumers remain vigilant to make Australia a hard target for scammers.”

Now, says Lawrence, with the joint initiative between Australia’s commercial banks and its customer owned banks (mutual banks, building societies and credit unions), “it doesn’t matter if someone banks with a regional mutual bank or the largest bank in the country, customers can be confident their bank is working hard to protect their money,” said COBA CEO Mike Lawrence.

Scammers now face the wrath of a Scam-Safe Accord that promises to roll out a confirmation-of-payee system across all Australian banks. Funded by a $100 million investment, the system aims to strengthen the certainty and security with which people transfer money across the banking industry. Design has kicked off, with a target rollout over 2024 and 2025.

Face, fingerprint, behavioral biometrics all mentioned for checks

The banks are not messing about. Major banks must use at least one biometric check for new individual customers opening accounts online by the end of 2024. Per the release, “these checks will be either detectable to a person’s behavior or involve a check of a customer’s face or fingerprint, enabling banks to use these characteristics to verify their customer’s identity.”

Accompanying the rollout of biometrics for new accounts will be additional strengthened protections to banking systems – so strong, say the banks, that customers could see additional delays when upping payment limits or transfering funds to new payees. The Accord also comes with expanded intelligence sharing across the sector, with all banks to join the Fraud Reporting Exchange and access scams intelligence from the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange by mid-2024, to tighten fraud prevention and expedite recovery.

Anna Bligh, CEO of the ABA, says that the scale of fraud in Australia, and the amount of it that has been thwarted, shows how essential it is that the sector commits to safeguarding the country’s customers and small businesses. “Recent data from banks shows that $600 million in stolen funds has been returned to customers over the last year,” says Bligh. “To keep up this effort it is critical that government, banks, telcos, social media and crypto platforms work together as part of an ecosystem to stay one step ahead of sophisticated criminal gangs.”

Australia’s banks have been fomenting closer ties across the digital identity playing field, as doubts about the national digital ID program linger.

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