Electronic fraud constitutes more than 80 percent of all complaints and fraud cases the central bank receives, data from the Consumer Reporting Unit of the Central Bank’s Financial Stability Department has shown.

Millison Narh, First Deputy-Governor of the central bank, calls the situation “mind-boggling”, and cautions that banks should step up their risk assessment to curtail the surge.

The situation could cause “reputational damage”, not only to banks but “may have systemic implications that could even lead to blacklisting of the country by the outside world,” Millison Narh told risk officers of the banks in Accra.

Electronic fraud, he said, cuts across all the traditional risks associated with banking; including credit, operational, market, liquidity and others.

“The country was blacklisted for money laundering and it took a lot of work to get us out of that challenge. It affected most of the correspondent relationships between local and foreign banks,” he said at the opening of Ghana International Bank’s Risk Management in Banks and Implications for Capital programme in Accra.

“Though the world is moving to electronic banking, the associated risk could be enormous. I therefore charge the facilitators to delve a little more into these areas and try to elicit more discussion so we can find solutions to some of the issues we have identified.”

Albert Antwi-Boasiako-Principal Consultant at e-Crime Bureau, a cyber security company, told the B&FT that the banking industry is losing about US$250,000 weekly due to cyber-crime and banks, and even the regulators cannot keep up.

The financial industry in Ghana, he said, is overwhelmed by cyber-attacks, a reason the industry must invest more to educate users of online banking and conduct proper security assessments of banking apps and tools before rolling them out.

“Email fraud is targetting SMEs a lot. SME emails are hacked and fictitious invoices are generated that lead to the payment of monies to fraudsters. With customers not fully prepared for Internet banking, there is a huge vulnerability or risk in the sector.”

Remedies

Banks and other financial institutions, Mr. Antwi-Boasiako said, need to conduct security assessment of apps and tools used by mobile payment service providers before integrating them into their core operating systems.

“The reason these cyber-related activities are growing at an alarming rate is the fact that institutions haven’t made the necessary budgetary investment in cyber security.

‘On one hand there is an increment in the rate at which cyber crime is being committed in the sector. but on the other hand there is low investment in cyber security from industry players,” he added.

Mr. Antwi-Boasiako said banks and other financial institutions cannot fight cybercrime alone, asking them to constantly educate their customers on how to keep their online banking platforms safe from hackers.

“For example, if you use online banking and you visit a pornographic website [which could be virus-infested] and later visit your online banking platform your online credentials can be intercepted, and that is obviously beyond the bank’s capabilities.

“This is the user problem. This means you need to educate users of the online banking platforms about some of these implications. User-awareness and education must be extended to cover electronic security so that consumers will be protected,” he said.

Ghana is not alone in facing the menace of electronic fraud. In February 2016, instructions to steal US$951million from the central bank of Bangladesh were issued via the SWIFT network – a platform that provides a network that enables financial institutions worldwide to send and receive information about financial transactions in a secure, standardised and reliable environment.

Five transactions issued by hackers, worth US$101million and withdrawn from the Bangladesh Bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, succeeded.

Some US$20million of the amount, traced to Sri Lanka, was recovered; while another US$81million, traced to the Philippines, is yet to be recovered.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York successfully blocked the remaining amount of US$850million at the request of the central bank of Bangladesh.