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Lloyds Bank’s fraud detection system ‘the Rat’ sniffs out scammers

By Vicky Shaw, PA Personal Finance Correspondent

Lloyds Bank says a new high-tech defence system which sniffs out fraudsters before they can strike has stopped more than 2,000 customers losing cash so far.

Called “the Rat” by the fraud team at Lloyds, the technology looks for signs of unusual and suspect behaviour when people log into its banking services – which does not match customers’ normal habits.

It acts quickly in “real time” behind the scenes to prevent customers losing money – sometimes while they are still on the phone to the scammer.

Since going live at the end of last year, the Rat has already prevented more than 2,100 customers falling victim to a scam, figures given by Lloyds to the PA news agency show.

Paul Davis, retail fraud director, Lloyds Bank, told PA: “We have many fraud detection systems that are running 24/7.”

Speaking about the Rat, he said: “This is quite a new approach. We’ve got great results really quickly and we found that it was detecting fraud very pro-actively.

“We were having some quite amazing conversations with customers who were in the middle of being scammed, and we were able to stop it.”

If the Rat spots the tell-tale signs of fraud, Lloyds will freeze the customer’s account, preventing funds from being lost, and contact the customer.

Customers do not need to opt in to the service, which is also being used by other banks within the Lloyds group.

The Rat closes in on criminals in several different ways.

It uses behavioural analysis to decide whether someone logging in is really a customer or a fraudster – seeking out giveaway signs that do not match a customer’s normal routine.

Alarm bells could ring, for example, if the time it takes for someone to enter personal details in their online banking does not fit with a particular customer’s usual behaviour.

If suspect activity is detected, the Rat looks at whether the customer’s computer is being accessed remotely. Scammers often trick people into passing over control of their computer.

Lloyds said there is also another way that fraudsters trip themselves up which the Rat looks out for – but it cannot give further details as criminals would then change their behaviour.

In one of the Rat’s successes, an elderly customer received a call from a scammer pretending to be from BT and claiming there was a problem with his internet.

The fraudster tried to hack into the customer’s computer and set up external payments via his online banking.

The suspect activity was picked up by the Rat – and the account was blocked while the elderly man was still on the phone to the scammer. No funds were lost. Lloyds spoke to the customer and provided him with additional information on scams and how to spot them.

One in 10 (10%) people across the UK say they have been the victim of a financial scam at some point in their lives, according to previous Lloyds research across the general population.

Scammers’ tactics have become increasingly sophisticated, with fraudsters often posing as official bodies such as banks and the police to trick people into transferring their cash themselves.

Overall losses due to this type of fraud – known as authorised push payment scams – totalled £354.3 million across the UK last year according to UK Finance.

While banks have recently introduced stronger protections for victims, even in cases where customers are refunded, money obtained fraudulently may be used to facilitate crimes such as people trafficking and exploitation.

Lloyds also launched a mule-hunting team at the start of 2018 to detect and stop money mules and it said it is particularly focused on shutting down the movement of money from scams.

Here are some tips from Lloyds for spotting a financial scam:

– Check for spelling mistakes in emails.

– If someone emails you a payment request, check they are genuine by speaking to them in person, or by calling them on a number you have saved.

– Be cautious about opening any emails that you were not expecting, even if you think you recognise the sender and do not click on links or attachments unless you are sure they are genuine. Also, watch out for spoof text messages which may look similar to genuine messages you receive from your bank.

– Use anti-virus software to protect your devices and ensure you have downloaded the latest updates for your operating system.

– Your bank will never ask you to share your account details like user ID, password and memorable information. Nor will it tell you to move your money for security reasons. Contact your bank immediately if you receive any requests of this nature.

– Make sure your internet banking site looks normal. Do not log on or key in codes if any of the website pages look strange or different as this may indicate a virus infection.