Aiming to reduce losses to false billing and other scams, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has launched a pair of online services that let customers confirm they are transferring money to the right account – and that incoming calls aren’t from scammers.

Designed to plug a large and persistent security hole in Australia’s New Payments Platform (NPP) instant electronic payments network – the fact that banks do not validate BSB and account details – CBA’s NameCheck technology uses what group executive for retail banking Angus Sullivan called “unique technology and advanced algorithms” to confirm whether the entered account details match the name on the recipient’s account.

The service is designed to help customers identify compromise by false billing scams – also referred to as business email compromise (BEC) or payment redirection scams – in which fraudsters, posing as a legitimate supplier or business partner, instruct their victims to update account details or fast-track payments to new accounts.

Payment redirection is the most financially damaging type of scam affecting Australian businesses, which lost $227 million to such scams during 2021, according to the ACCC ScamWatch service – a 77 per cent increase over the previous year – while false billing scams cost Australians over $25 million last year alone.

As a country widely recognised for its wealth, Australia has long been targeted by scammers that have taken advantage of the immediacy of NPP payments.

By adding a new verification layer on the customer side, CBA is aiming to help customers detect fraudulent transfers before their money is sent – avoiding the fate of an ACT firm that was last year forced to pay an invoice twice after it succumbed to payment fraud.

“When they transfer money online many people assume the intended recipient’s account name is checked as well as the BSB and account number,” Sullivan said, “but in most cases this is not possible.”

“We now have the data and technology to improve this,” he continued, noting that the new technology – due to debut in late March – “gives customers making first time payments a view of the likelihood that the name and account details match.”

Banks join the fight against fraud

NameCheck is the latest in a series of new services designed to stem losses to BEC scams, with the ATO recently launching its own electronic invoicing service, and NPP debuting its PayID service as a way to link bank account details to a mobile number or email address.

Also entering the fray is the CBA’s second new service, called CallerCheck, which is the bank’s solution to the ongoing problem of phone scammers who call customers with ruses such as claiming to represent financial institutions’ fraud detection units.

ME Bank warned 300,000 customers last month about a new scam calling campaign, while in December Suncorp Bank raised the alarm about a campaign in which callers were asking victims to transfer money or share their personal information.

Westpac last year released actual audio of a scam call and partnered with Optus to add over 94,000 Westpac phone numbers to a ‘Do Not Originate’ list that prevents scammers from impersonating bank employees.

CBA’s CallerCheck works in tandem with the CommBank mobile app, allowing legitimate bank staff to confirm their identity by triggering the app while they are talking with their customers.

The service also lets customers use the app to verify their identity to the bank representative, rather than having to provide personal details to someone who calls them asking for information.

“Scammers are attempting to cause harm to our customers and the community every day,” Sullivan said, “and we are working hard to utilise our technology and customer insights to help keep their hard-earned money safe.”

The banks’ anti-fraud efforts come in the wake of a call to action by ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb, who in a speech last year flagged the “emotional devastation” of “staggering” fraud and called on financial services, government, consumer groups, and the telco sector to work together to fight back against fraudsters.

“The fight against scams is never-ending and ever-evolving,” she said. “No sooner do we succeed in shutting down one scam than another springs up in its place.”

“We want to see banks… placing consumers’ welfare at the forefront of their policies,” she added.

“Take this as a call to action to make Australia the world’s hardest scam target.”