Phishing in 2020 cost Belgians €34 million, says regulator

Phishing in 2020 cost Belgians €34 million, says regulator
© Julia Weihe Unsplash

The victims of financial fraud by phishing lost a total of €34 million last year, according to figures issued by the financial industry regulator Febelfin.

The regulator was able to gather data on 67,000 successful phishing attempts, but the real figure is likely to be several times more, as many victim of fraud are too embarrassed to report the details.

Phishing is a type of fraud in which the criminal tricks the victim into revealing details that allow the crooks access to the bank account of the victim, at which point they are able to help themselves to the victim’s funds.

One of the many techniques is to pose as the victim’s bank in an email and ask them to click on a link, which takes them to a fake website that asks for identifying details that then allow access to the account.

Banks have stressed time and time again that they do not do business this way. If there is a problem with your account you will be invited to come to a branch in person. Under no circumstances will your bank ever ask for details allowing access to your account.

Nonetheless, the practice of phishing was successful 67,000 times in Belgium last year, and €34 million went into the pockets of the crooks.

The banks go to great effort, Febelfin says, to try to stop phishing attacks from being successful, and are able to intervene successfully in 75% of cases. That gives an idea of the extent of the problem: if those cases were not stopped, the damage would be of the order of more than €130 million.

Febelfin passed on a simple two-part safeguard on how not to become the next victim of the crooks:

1. never pass on personal codes (pin code & response code) in response to an email, telephone call, text message, social media or WhatsApp message. If asked, it is a scam.

2. never click on a received link, but always type the address of the desired bank website in your browser or use your own mobile banking app.

“The corona crisis and the many digital contacts are an opportunity for fraudsters to defraud people. The different forms of phishing are many and complex,” said Febelfin in a statement.

Fraudsters not only use different channels – such as email, letter, telephone, SMS, social media and WhatsApp – but they also commit the fraud under guise of various organisations and institutions such as banks, government administrations, telecom operators, utility companies, and so on. The list is long. That is why this is a broad social phenomenon: different sectors are involved and everyone is a potential victim because of the wide variety of channels.”

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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