‘We have a duty to warn the pub­lic’

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

THE Bankers As­so­ci­a­tion of Le­sotho (BAL) on Mon­day launched a month-long fraud aware­ness cam­paign un­der the theme, ‘Be vig­i­lant at all times when us­ing your in­ter­net bank­ing, POS and ATM’.

The as­so­ci­a­tion com­prises Stan­dard Le­sotho Bank, Ned­bank, First Na­tional Bank and Post Bank. Ned­bank Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, PJ Bouwer, speaks to Le­sotho Times ( LT) reporter, Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane, about the na­tion­wide op­er­a­tion which ends on 31 De­cem­ber. Mr Bouwer was speak­ing on be­half of BAL chair­per­son and Stan­dard Le­sotho Bank Chief Ex­ec­u­tive, Mr Mpho Vum­bukani.

LT: Could you please tell us the man­date of the Bankers As­so­ci­a­tion of Le­sotho and when the or­gan­i­sa­tion was es­tab­lished?

Bouwer: The Bankers As­so­ci­a­tion of Le­sotho was es­tab­lished in 2006 and is made up of four lo­cal banks, namely First Na­tional Bank, Stan­dard Le­sotho Bank, Ned­bank and Post Bank. The pur­pose of the as­so­ci­a­tion is to ad­dress in­dus­try is­sues to­gether. Yes, daily we are in com­pe­ti­tion to get the best value for Ba­sotho and or­di­nary busi­nesses in the coun­try, but there are a lot of other is­sues which do not need com­pe­ti­tion but col­lab­o­ra­tion.

We are here to­day about fraud aware­ness, which is one of the is­sues which need co­op­er­a­tion. Fraud af­fects each and ev­ery one of us; it is not good for any one of us. So in­stead of hold­ing four gath­er­ings to ad­dress this is­sue, we thought it wise to do this to­gether. When it comes even to the is­sue of se­cu­rity, we also col­lab­o­rate be­cause it is in our best in­ter­est as a col­lec­tive, to make sure the bank­ing en­vi­ron­ment is safer. The long and short of it is BAL is here to ad­dress in­dus­try is­sues that af­fect us all.

LT: How does this col­lab­o­ra­tion work?

Bouwer: We share in­for­ma­tion among each other. Where I see some­thing hap­pen­ing in my busi­ness, I should in­form the other bank to en­sure it does not spread and af­fect the oth­ers. So we alert each other for the ben­e­fit of the en­tire in­dus­try, not us as in­di­vid­ual banks. We do gain as in­di­vid­u­als, but as a team, we work to­gether. Ba­si­cally, what we are cur­rently do­ing is to have for­mal monthly meet­ings whereby we look at all the chal­lenges af­fect­ing the in­dus­try.

There are those chal­lenges that di­rectly af­fect our cus­tomers, and there are those that are af­fect­ing us as in­di­vid­ual banks but com­ing from the reg­u­la­tor (Cen­tral Bank). We can high­light that in terms of the growth of the busi­ness. Yes, we are com­pet­ing, but in terms of risk, we can­not be com­pet­ing. We are look­ing at this from all an­gles so that we are cov­ered. What we are say­ing is there may be an is­sue that af­fects my bank, which may not af­fect the other bank. So what we do is share in­for­ma­tion so that if it has neg­a­tively af­fected my bank, we make sure that it does not af­fect the next bank.

Fraud kills our econ­omy. And by so say­ing, it means we need to be shar­ing risk ex­pe­ri­ences in the best in­ter­est of the fi­nan­cial sec­tor and the coun­try at large. We don’t only share in­for­ma­tion at for­mal monthly meet­ings, but also on a daily ba­sis. We do not nec­es­sar­ily have to wait un­til the fol­low­ing month’s meet­ing to share the in­for­ma­tion we might be hav­ing. If there is some­thing hap­pen­ing right now, I can just pick up the phone or send an email to the other banks and in­form them about the is­sue. This is to make sure that they are vig­i­lant at all times and we are al­ways aware of what is hap­pen­ing in our in­dus­try.

LT: Do you in­volve other or­gan­i­sa­tions in this fight against crime or is the in­for­ma­tion you have to share ex­clu­sive to the four of you?

Bouwer: Since BAL was es­tab­lished in 2006, this has not only been about us col­lab­o­rat­ing. It has also been about us ap­proach­ing other in­sti­tu­tions. For in­stance, we en­gage se­cu­rity agen­cies through par­lia­ment’s Se­cu­rity Clus­ter. Our chair­man nor­mally ap­proaches the se­cu­rity peo­ple to as­sist us. If there is a le­gal is­sue, or what­ever govern­ment in­sti­tu­tion we want to ap­proach, we do it as an in­dus­try.

So it is not just about our own ben­e­fit, but also to reach out to our client-base. For ar­gu­ment’s sake, last year we had ram­pant bomb­ings of our ATMS (Au­to­mated Teller Ma­chines). We col­lab­o­rated and de­cided that as an in­dus­try, we were go­ing to in­stall ink can­is­ters so that dur­ing the ATM bomb­ing, the money is stained by the ink and the notes are not us­able.

LT: Tell us about to­day’s launch of this aware­ness cam­paign…why now?

Bouwer: The cam­paign is to alert our de­pos­i­tors and in­deed, the en­tire na­tion about pos­si­ble crim­i­nal or fraud ac­tiv­i­ties com­mon to our in­dus­try at this time of the year as we head for the fes­tive sea­son. I must in­di­cate and ac­knowl­edge that in our in­dus­try, fraud is usu­ally per­pe­trated from within our own ranks where it may be com­mit­ted in­ter­nally and ex­ter­nally by crim­i­nals and even in­ter­na­tional syn­di­cates who can be very so­phis­ti­cated at times. At all of our banks, we have in­ter­nal fraud aware­ness pro­grammes where we re­in­force eth­i­cal be­hav­iour and I must say we are win­ning on that one.

We gath­ered here to­day specif­i­cally to join hands and ask for your as­sis­tance as me­dia prac­ti­tion­ers to warn the pub­lic about ex­ter­nal fraud that has be­come a threat to our clients and their money, which, if not prop­erly con­trolled, can lead to many so­cial and eco­nomic prob­lems. We are launch­ing this cam­paign with the theme, ‘Be vig­i­lant at all times when us­ing your in­ter­net bank­ing, POS (point-of-sale) and ATM’. We are say­ing this mes­sage be­cause we know crim­i­nals tar­get their money at this time of the year. This is the time when peo­ple spend a bit more than usual; oth­ers get their bonuses and gen­er­ally, more money ex­changes hands.

LT: Tra­di­tion­ally, banks are there to pro­vide fi­nan­cial ser­vices to the peo­ple and their busi­nesses. How im­por­tant is it for banks to go the ex­tra mile and pro­vide aware­ness cam­paigns like this one?

Bouwer: Banks are at the cen­tre of this ex­change and as such, we have le­git­i­mate in­ter­est to pro­tect de­pos­i­tors and their money. Our other in­ter­est is that we, as banks, value our clients and in­deed, as pre­scribed by the Cen­tral Bank of Le­sotho, we have a duty to in­form and warn the gen­eral pub­lic about how they should con­duct them­selves when han­dling their money. Lately, we have had re­ports of cloned cards, which is on the rise. Cloning hap­pens when crim­i­nals steal in­for­ma­tion on clients’ bank cards and re­pro­duce sim­i­lar cards to de­fraud them of their money. I must em­pha­sise that this crime in­volves in­ter­na­tional syn­di­cates and has be­come cause for con­cern not only in Le­sotho but also glob­ally. Ba­sotho have been vic­tims of this crime, es­pe­cially when they travel to South Africa and abroad, which why this cam­paign we are launch­ing to­day is of ut­most im­por­tance.

LT: What is your mes­sage to Ba­sotho con­cern­ing this cam­paign and fraud in gen­eral?

Bouwer: Our mes­sage to the pub­lic is re­ally to im­plore them to take the fol­low­ing pre­cau­tions when us­ing ATMS and credit cards: Do not ac­cept help from strangers; keep your PIN (Per­sonal Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Num­ber) a se­cret; sign your pay­ments card at the back as an ad­di­tional mea­sure against fraud­sters us­ing your card; safe­guard your ATM card, credit card, debit card, cheque book and bank state­ments at all times; pro­tect your iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments; re­port sus­pi­cious be­hav­iour to the bank and the po­lice, and re­port lost cards im­me­di­ately.

With re­gard to elec­tronic bank­ing plat­forms such as in­ter­net bank­ing and mo­bile bank­ing, we are aware the fraud­sters have be­come very so­phis­ti­cated. They can hack your com­puter sys­tem and ob­tain in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing your pass­words, to gain ac­cess into your ac­count. We there­fore ad­vise the fol­low­ing: Never re­spond to emails that re­quire you to en­ter per­sonal de­tails; never give out your user ID, pass­word, or ac­count num­ber into a non-se­cure web page; re­mem­ber, no bank can ever re­quest you to con­firm con­fi­den­tial de­tails via email; never log from a link, type the web ad­dress ev­ery time you log in for on­line bank­ing; log reg­u­larly to your on­line ac­counts and check the last lo­gin date; check your bank state­ments to make sure you recog­nise all the trans­ac­tions; and if some­thing looks sus­pi­cious, con­tact your bank im­me­di­ately.

Hav­ing shared th­ese pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures, our mes­sage is not to make any­one para­noid about our trans­act­ing chan­nels which are very safe, good and con­ve­nient bank­ing plat­forms if used cor­rectly. I there­fore want to re­it­er­ate that th­ese bank­ing plat­forms are safe and con­ve­nient, but peo­ple have an obli­ga­tion to use them re­spon­si­bly. I am say­ing obli­ga­tion with em­pha­sis here be­cause if a cus­tomer loses money to fraud and dur­ing our in­ves­ti­ga­tions, we es­tab­lish that they have been ir­re­spon­si­ble in the han­dling of the ac­count, we, as banks, have no obli­ga­tion to re­fund the cus­tomer.

A typ­i­cal ex­am­ple here is of cus­tomers who give their fam­ily mem­bers ac­cess to their ATM cards, be it their spouses, part­ners or chil­dren. We han­dle nu­mer­ous cases where ac­count hold­ers come back to us to claim that their money is be­ing stolen, only to dis­cover that the cul­prits are fam­ily mem­bers. Banks usu­ally ad­vise cus­tomers in such in­stances to is­sue sec­ondary cards which can be con­trolled and mon­i­tored.

I plead with Ba­sotho to spread our mes­sage and play their part in help­ing us com­bat fraud be­cause it af­fects us all as in­di­vid­u­als. It also af­fects our small econ­omy and re­ally, this is a mes­sage for ev­ery­one who uses a bank or as­pires to be a cus­tomer in fu­ture.

Ned­bank MD PJ Bouwer.

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