Shifting Consumer Habits Demand Fresh Focus to Fight Fraud

Consumer Confidence Index Nigeria

By Aribidesi Lawal

Nearly every part of daily life has changed as the world continues to fight back against COVID-19. Most observers agree that the increased focus on digital commerce by consumers and merchants will likely remain even after a vaccine is found and the economy rebounds.

As the pandemic and its economic impact extend into 2021 and beyond, these new habits will likely crystalize. It is important for merchants and financial institutions to adapt now to support consumer behaviour through safe, reliable digital commerce.

A shift to online channels by consumers and fraudsters

Globally, consumers are shopping more online. Just look at the numbers.

  • In Nigeria, more consumers turned to online shopping for the first time with 42% of shoppers starting to purchase food via eCommerce platforms.
  • In South Africa, in-store physical activity greatly dwindled, with 63% of consumers visiting physical grocery stores less often.
  • In Kenya, consumers’ preference for digital solutions is fast increasing as customers turned online for shopping. 43% of consumers started purchasing from pharmacies online
  • In the U.S., Visa credentials active in spending on eCommerce channels, excluding travel, were over 12% higher in June than in January. Moreover, when you examine the active credentials who tend to be more significantly engaged in eCommerce, the spend per active credential increased by over 25%.
  • In the U.K., active eCommerce credentials increased by 16% while spend per active credential increased by 3%.

Where consumers go, fraudsters follow and Visa’s Payment Fraud Disruption (PFD) team has seen a similar shift in fraudulent activities/fraud attempts from in-store to online.

Between March and April 2020, there was a rise in fraudsters establishing short-term “COVID”-named merchants and using these fraudulent merchants to perform account testing and enumeration. This is where fraudsters use merchants or financial institutions to guess account numbers, expiration dates and CVV2/security codes through automated testing. This activity is often marked by high volumes of low-dollar declines.

Our Visa team also saw an increase in e-commerce skimming attacks, where fraudsters inject malicious JavaScript code into the websites of merchants and service providers to digitally harvest payment information such as billing address, account number, expiration date, and CVV2 from the checkout forms on e-commerce pages. In April 2020 alone, PFD identified 90 merchant websites compromised by multiple variants of e-commerce skimmers.

Fortunately, fraud prevention capabilities such as Visa Account Attack Intelligence, which prevents account testing, and Visa eCommerce Threat Disruption, which prevents online skimming, are free of charge and are among the many fraud prevention layers and security benefits available to Visa clients.

Visa, financial institutions, and payment providers work hard to keep consumers’ payments safe – using multiple layers of security to prevent fraud, protect data, and help them get their money back if someone uses their card without permission. Yet, fraudsters are counting on consumers to be distracted and let their guard down, so they can trick them into handing over their personal or financial information.

This is why we believe consumer education is key in the fight against fraud and we have been helping consumers understand how to spot fraudulent activity and how to protect their sensitive information, particularly now, when most of our payments have shifted to digital.

Here are three simple steps every consumer can follow to stay safe when shopping online:

  • Pay securely online – When paying online, use Visa Checkout that offers an extra layer of protection and always check the URL to ensure it begins with “https://”. The “s” at the end confirms a secure connection.
  • Pay securely in-app – Update your passwords with a strong password unique to each account or better yet, switch to fingerprint or facial recognition for account login and/or payments if it’s an option.
  • Beware of phishing scams – Be careful of unsolicited and suspicious emails, SMS or phone calls. They may try to steal personal information like your account number, username and password. If in doubt, do not click on any links or download files.

Additionally, we implement a rule-based authentication service called Visa Cardholder Authentication Service (VCAS) that combines risk intelligence and targeted rules strategy to help reduce customer friction as well as provide seamless payment experiences.

The need for contactless payment acceptance in Nigeria

While online commerce has increased, in-store purchases have not gone away. Essential workers still have to go into the office and re-fuel for their commute and some goods simply cannot be purchased online and delivered to consumers. In these situations, embracing contactless card payments can offer peace of mind. Visa data shows that consumers are increasingly embracing contactless across the world, and as Main Streets and High Streets reopen, consumers are asking for more touchless options to pay.

Touchless, or contactless payments, where one can tap to pay with a card or smart phone, enables a safe and secure experience without the need for consumers to touch the checkout terminal and early indications show usage is high among grocery stores and pharmacies around the world. A few other trends include:

  • Nearly 50 countries improved tap to pay penetration by more than 5% and over 10 countries increase by 10% or more from fiscal year Q2 to Q3.
  • Visa helped more than 55 countries increase the tap to pay limits, reducing the share of transactions that require consumer contact by more than 40% in several of those countries.
  • In the U.S., more than 80M contactless Visa payment cards were added in the first 6 months of the calendar year as financial institutions accelerated their issuance schedules.

Despite the increase in penetration and card issuance, the fraud rate for contactless payments is significantly lower than the overall card-present fraud rate, which illustrates the security of tapping to pay.

Although there may be some regression back to the norm after the pandemic, it is not a leap to think some habits will remain. The shift to buying online is here to stay. For merchants and financial institutions, adapting to new consumer habits not only means meeting customer preference, but it is also an investment in the future of digital payments. It is time for Nigeria to embrace the convenience and security of tapping to pay in-store.

Aribidesi Lawal is the Risk Manager at Visa West Africa

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