Last month MEF held a workshop in Cape Town to discuss how to tackle consumer fraud in business messaging. An open invite from MEF members to the banks and mobile network operators in South Africa brought together 3 of the 4 networks, the banks, local associations WASPA and SABRIC to share their own progress in the fight against fraud.

Of the 13 fraud types identified in MEF’s Enterprise Messaging Fraud Framework those involving social engineering and causing consumer harm e.g. identity theft such as Phishing by SMS (Smishing) and Spoofing as well as data theft by SIM SWAP often create the biggest sensational headlines and arguably are biggest threat to the messaging ecosystem.

Theft from the unsuspecting disclosure of personal data by a consumer can have wide ranging impact from unknowingly authorising financial transactions to bank accounts taken over by diverted OTPs.

And of course, customer complaints are always directed at the party with which a consumer has a direct relationship, namely the network or the enterprise e.g. the banks whose customers are most likely targets of the fraudsters with clear risk of reputational damage, customer dissatisfaction and ultimately customer churn.

Headlines such as bank scammers are stealing £1million a DAY in fraud epidemic damage the reputation of not only the banks but also the mobile industry when rightly questioned whether we are doing enough to keep the A2P SMS channel secure and clean from fraud to ensure prolonged consumer trust, and a safe environment for brands to communicate with their customers.

As overall business messaging competition intensifies, SMS is under increasing scrutiny as an effective and secure communication mechanism. No communication channel  can claim to be a 100% ‘secure channel’ however, proactive and consistent vigilance can make the difference and that’s what MEF members want to see happen in South Africa.

Since its launch in 2015, MEF’s Future of Messaging Programme and its participants have been collaborating to define best practices when it comes to fraud prevention and management. Its global A2P SMS Code of Conduct rolled out in 2018 and members are now leading the debate on how continued industry collaboration across the entire ecosystem is required to have impact against the battle against fraudsters.

An example of this is the UK launch of the SMS Sender ID Protection Registry, where banks, Government agencies, mobile network operators and messaging providers are working together to redefine processes and provide tactical solutions to mitigate smishing and spoofing.

Watching this development closely, last month MEF members in South Africa host a workshop inviting the South African banks and mobile network operators to explore a similar collaboration.

South Africa is a major market for enterprise messaging. According to Mobilesquared’s annual A2P SMS Forecasts, nearly 25 billion A2P messages are sent each year in this mobile-first market; 35% of total traffic in the region.

And as we all know, where the market is buoyant, the fraudsters will follow.

Digital banking fraud soared by 75% in South Africa in 2018 with over 12,000 incidents of mobile banking fraud reported and a total of R28.9 lost to mobile banking fraud, with SMS phishing the preferred method to defraud users.

MEF invited SABRIC – the South African Risk Information Centre who track all banking fraud in the country to share some of their local market insights and challenges and talk about the impactful and innovative consumer education campaigns they carry out to raise awareness of the daily fraud threat.

For every fraud type there are just as many technical fraud prevention solutions helping protect consumers, enterprises and networks alike. But internal demands on the business case to invest in fraud prevention and the endless game of ‘whack-a-mole’ can make the roll out patchy.

To defend the long-term position of SMS as the cleanest and reliable communication mechanism, requires a collaborative approach across the ecosystem.

As overall business messaging competition from other solutions intensifies, SMS is under increasing scrutiny as an effective and secure communication mechanism. No communication channel is exempt from the attacks of fraudsters, none can claim to be a 100% ‘secure channel’. However, proactive and consistent vigilance can make the difference and that’s what MEF members want to see happen in South Africa.

We’ve made that first step and are delighted to have been invited by SABRIC to host our next session in Midrand, Gauteng in early 2020 to engage more of the banks and hopefully pinpoint a tactical solution and collaborative approach that will have true impact in the fight against fraud.

If you’re interested in getting involved please do contact us.

Joanne Lacey

COO, Mobile Ecosystem Forum


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