Caribbean culture and online banking security

Thanks in large part to the evolution of digital banking, most customers today are finding it much more convenient to manage their finances through online channels. Opening a new bank account, applying for a loan, investing in financial markets are processes that previously might have taken hours, days or even weeks to complete, but are now concluded in a matter of seconds. Mobile apps, for example, allow users to execute a range of tasks with just a few taps on their smartphones and are making the overall banking experience much more enjoyable and user friendly. 

Accompanying these impressive advancements is a whole range of new security risks that banks must deal with in order to continue to deliver the best, and safest experiences to their customers.

On a global scale the Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated the shift towards the digital space. With lockdown restrictions preventing regular bank-branch activity from taking place, and with social-distancing measures further reducing the opportunities for in-person engagement, virtually every part of the world has seen the use of online- and mobile-banking services skyrocket since the onset of the virus in 2020.

Practical solutions

The most common and practical solutions over the past few years, that ensure digital and online banking security are two factor authentication, card locking features and account alerts.

Two factor authentication is also known as two-step verification. The two-factor authentication is a common security measure that consumers use when they log into a digital banking account. And it works quite simply. When a bank client logs onto the account, along with the own personal password they must enter a unique, one-time passcode. This usually arrives through a QR code via app, or by SMS on the mobile phone. This way even if someone has your password, they cannot access your account or make transactions without the passcode. You can only use each passcode once; you will get a new code every time you log in or execute a transaction. Even email accounts, and your credit card are using more and more two factor authentication, to ensure no one illegally accesses your personal online world.

Another very practical and intuitive-friendly feature is when banks  allow you to lock your debit or credit card when you’re not planning to use it; or if it’s has been lost, misplaced, or stolen. Aside from the locking feature, you can also disable certain types of operations. For instance, you can deactivate online transactions with your card while you are abroad. You can also forbid ATM withdrawals if you use the card mostly for online shopping.

Finally, another practical feature that all bank customers are well advised to activate is the transaction alert system on their accounts and their credit cards. Mature online banks allow the customer to set an alert threshold so that not every transaction generates an email, app or sms. It is the ideal way to keep an eye on what’s happening with your account. In combination with account-locking, you can immediately proceed to lock your debit or credit card, and avoid further misuse in case you detect anything irregular.

The Caribbean ingredient

Whilst universally Caribbean, it is not exclusively Caribbean, but applicable to many countries with still prevalent poverty numbers. Since many families in the Caribbean are somewhat hybrid, with children oftentimes raised by a single working mom, an aunt, or a grandmother, or the mother-goose examples of family matriarchs taking care of multiple family offspring, it is especially this group of persons that is targeted more and more in the rapid digitalization process. 

As the (often-times) lower-schooled elderly are unable to comprehend the complexities of going online to interact with their banks, pension funds, or social security institutions, they are letting the kids they raised, or other younger family members “handle” their online needs. Online IDs, passwords, and other login information is blindly handed over to these family members. The 2-year Covid surge has accelerated this phenomenon greatly. 

A responsible granny, or frugal aunt, who always carefully saved and counted her pennies, generally has a nice little nest-egg to replace a broken fridge or washing machine. There is a growing trend of police reports and legal proceedings where it appears that the “trusted” family members have accessed accounts and siphoned-off monthly amounts or simply raided and emptied the accounts. If you hand the keys to your house to someone, there is no security system that prevents abuse. Whilst not unique to third world countries, this type of abuse is more pervasive in such countries.

To bridge this risk, certain banks in developed economies are starting to experiment with digital call-back robots with human voices to reach the elderly (55+) customer by (cell-) phone and validate if the online transaction is correct and authorized. The submitted transaction is suspended or frozen until it is approved for release by the account owner.

Security will probably remain a grave concern for all online banking customers for a long time to come. However, with the technological advancements and security 

mechanisms that financial institutions adopt, you can rest assured that data is generally safe when using online and mobile banking.