Fishing for Phishers nets new ideas

Elles Jongenelen, Fraud Department

'The fraud department at Rabobank is constantly at war. Our enemies are phishers. These criminal groups seek to steal from citizens, for instance by gaining control of their bank cards or tricking them with misleading emails. In our fight against these fraudsters, we’ve discovered yet another form of fraud we can combat: financial abuse of vulnerable elderly people.'

ATM Transactions and patterns

‘To detect phishing, we keep a very close eye on Rabobank transactions. Using smart software, we continually search for patterns and deviations to spot fraudulent transactions. For instance, when an unusually large amount is withdrawn from an ATM which the card holder never uses, it might be a case of phishing. Rapid recognition means that we can block the transaction and prevent the theft. As we worked with this software, we realized we could also use it to protect vulnerable senior citizens against financial abuse. Financial criminals regularly go after senior citizens. It’s an unpleasant consequence of their dependence on other people.’

Bad news

‘Elderly people often give their bank card and pin code to people who are helping them, like caregivers who do their shopping. They also trust family members or friends to take care of their finances. Sometimes people abuse this trust. We can detect this kind of fraud just like we detect phishing, by looking at deviations from the norm: inexplicable payments to third parties or payments made to gas stations by an account holder who doesn’t own a car.

That gave us the idea for RiskShield; a special application to protect this vulnerable target group. Last year we submitted the plan to an ideation competition held by the Rabobank Compliance department. We won and were selected to take part in a national competition, the Ethical Performance Awards. We won that too! Then we went on to design a proof of concept with six local banks. Our short film about it was viewed 25,000 times on LinkedIn. Since the idea was obviously making waves, it gave us an extra incentive to make it happen.’

Protective shell

‘There’s a very particular problem related to this type of fraud: elderly victims generally try to protect their caregivers, who may also be family members. They deny the problem. And if they refuse to admit something is wrong, we can’t take any action, even when we’re certain that the elderly customer is being defrauded. To solve this, we’re forming local alliances across the Netherlands involving everyone from care institutions to the customer’s own physician. The idea is that they will form a protective shell around the elderly person. Our detection system and these local alliances will ensure that financial abuse of this vulnerable group is identified and stopped before they lose all their money.’

Freedom and impact

‘When you can prevent fraud on such a large-scale, you make a real impact. And if you love working with big data, Rabobank is the place to be. It’s our job to keep the bank and payments systems safe. So we have the budget and the advanced software and technology we need to do that. For instance, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning combined with Business Rules that we’ve crafted in-house. Something else I like about my job is that we get to see very rich data plus a lot of freedom to work with it. Anti-fraud teams are allowed to do more with the data than commercial or financial teams. That makes the work even more exciting and means you can really make a difference.’

Interested in fraud protection?