Barclays: ‘Cyber criminals aren’t buying castles in eastern Europe, they are investing in the next malware’

Picture: PA Wire
Picture: PA Wire
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THE HEAD of fraud prevention at Barclays has called for greater cooperation between the police and banking sector to tackle the growing menace of cyber crime.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Alex Grant hit back at claims by police that financial institutions are not keen to work with the authorities and do not provide useful data.

“Anything within the bounds of the law we will absolutely support the police,” said the managing director of fraud prevention in personal and corporate banking at Barclays.

Mr Grant and his industry counterparts will meet with Sir Adrian Leppard, Commissioner of the City of London Police, on Monday to discuss the issue.

He said he wants more information from the force on its plans to deal with a “massive” number of online fraud and malware attacks, describing it as “a growing issue not just for Barclays clients but the UK as a whole”.

Mr Grant called on police to investigate the causes of computer infections to help identify and prosecute criminals “because one person can be behind 10, 100 and 1,000 infections”.

They take control of customers’ computers and hack emails to “look, feel and act exactly as you do”, he said.

Mr Grant would not disclose how much money Barclays lost to fraud last year but said £390m was lost through fraudulent credit and debit card transactions across the industry.

He blamed organised crime and pointed to official figures estimating that there are more than 5,000 organised crime gangs in Britain and said online fraud is becoming an increasingly sophisticated industry. Mr Grant said: “Fighting fraud is like three-dimensional chess in space with boxing gloves because there are so many moving parts to it.

“That £390m, a lot of it goes in research and development. It’s not that they are buying castles in eastern Europe; they are investing in the next malware and dreaming up the latest scam and they just keep coming back.”

Sir Adrian Leppard has publicly questioned whether financial institutions could be persuaded to report to the police.

It has been claimed that banks and businesses prefer to absorb the costs of crime to avoid alarming customers and to protect their reputation.

Mr Grant said: “The police have suggested that the banks are not keen to work with the police or they don’t provide useful data. I disagree...

“At the end of the day for me, chasing a fraudster out of Barclays is no good, because he will just go to NatWest, then Lloyds and then come back to Barclays.

“The banks collectively through the Financial Fraud Action UK group - I sit on the steering committee - are committed to working together with the police.

“I want them caught, put in prison and not just moving around the system attacking whichever bank’s fraud defences are not as strong as the others.”

As part of its efforts to tackle fraud, Barclays uses various technologies to profile the behaviour of its customers by looking at billions of transactions a year.

Mr Grant said Barclays has seen a 30 per cent decrease in the number of “false positives” - the interruption of geniune transactions - over the last four months, thanks to new tools to analyse big data.

He added that the lender is spending “many millions of pounds” on combating fraud. Mr Grant said: “If you look at some of the fastest-growing stocks in the tech sector, they are fintech stocks providing fraud prevention capabilities to organisations.”

Asked how fraud might develop in the future, he said: “You need to look at all the banks’ strategies, which are allowing customers to serve themselves 24-7, however they wish to serve themselves. Fraudsters will follow the customers.”