Retail Banking #4: How customers discuss the risk of fraud

Today is #TakeFiveDay, when the banking and payments sector comes together to tackle fraud. What can we learn about customer attitudes to fraud and identifty theft from social media?

In the first three instalments of our blog series we have examined how customers engage with their banks via social networks, with a specific focus on the performance of helpdesks on Twitter.  For our latest post, we asked for ideas on where we should go next. The votes are now in and the subject of today’s investigation is timely and relevant to all banks and customers.

Today is #TakeFiveDay, when HSBC, Natwest, Nationwide and other high street banks and building societies encourage customers to take five simple precautions against fraud. Over 5,000 high street branches are opening early, with fraud prevention advisors and local police teams available to distribute information packs and to answer questions.

Looking at the data flows this morning, social media posts discussing #TakeFive and related fraud issues are climbing in volume. There have been 1,600 posts in the past 24 hours, representing the highest daily total for relevant social media activity since the Tesco Bank hack in November 2016.


To assess the sensitivity of social networks to fraud risks, an analysis of behaviour during the past six months shows over fifty thousand people in the UK have posted fraud-related content. The service most associated with fraud risk is the current account, followed closely by credit cards. The increase in public concern about the security of current accounts highlights the growth in debit card use for online transactions and contactless payments. Paypal also features prominently in fraud discussion, due to the high volume of phishing emails in circulation.


If we examine why people post about fraud, the motivation of most contributors is to warn their network of a new security risk. The highest concentration of social network interactions in the UK was recorded in the first 24 hours following the hacking attack on Tesco Bank.

A second spike in activity occurred in mid-December, when Reddit published photographs of a skimming device attached to an ATM. There are close to six thousand comments attached to the original post, including contributions from readers who used the photos to identify skimming machines attached to their local ATMs.


In the UK, the post was propagated via Twitter and hit a peak of over one thousand RTs per day. Neither banks nor regulators were involved; the ATM skimming story was 100% socially generated. Initiatives such as #TakeFive allow banks to help their customers, but Reddit shows that customers can also help themselves.

So social networks can promote public awareness of security issues quickly. There is a flipside to this; how does the public know that a security risk is legitimate? Just as people share official warnings, it follows that a false alarm could be shared by an unknowing public. The outcome for a bank would be an expensive correction and a significant loss of public trust. One for the contingency planners to consider and one reason why the banking community needs to be at the forefront of anti-fraud discussion. #TakeFiveDay

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