Banks monitor how you walk, sleep and type in bid to catch scammers

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High Street banks have started to track the “walking style” of each customer in an effort to combat a huge increase in fraud.

Banks are using their banking apps customers’ mobile phones to monitor day to day habits, including how they walk, sleep and even type, in order to prevent criminals from stealing their cash.

The new spy technology can monitor each customer’s individual gait, as well as how tightly they grip their phone and the way they type on the screen.

If this behaviour changes, then the software will flag up suspicious activity and could prompt a call from the bank, or an immediate block on cash transfers.

Technology means ‘we know if someone else is accessing your account’

A senior banking source said the “behavioural biometrics” technology had been “very successful” at preventing fraud since its quiet introduction in recent months. 

Advanced security systems, including behavioural biometrics, prevented more than £736 million of fraud in the first six months of 2021, the source added.

“We can monitor your behaviours such as when you generally go to sleep, so that we know if someone else is accessing your account,” the source said.

“It also shows your habits – things like the way you stroke your keystrokes on the device, how you hold the device, how you tap your password or how you swipe the screen. For example, you might usually press the letter L particularly hard.

“We can also use tools inside someone’s phone to monitor their individual walking style. If these things suddenly change, then that might point to someone’s account being illegally compromised.”

Banks are using the technology to spot when someone has had their phone stolen and the criminal tries to access their cash through their banking app.

The software can also be used to identify when fraudsters have used a scam text or phone call to dupe a victim into handing over their financial details.

In May, the Information Commissioner wrote to UK Finance, the body representing the banking and finance industry, to warn that the use of behavioural biometric technology must be “targeted and proportionate” and only if the aims “cannot be achieved in a less intrusive way”. 

A senior source said the banking industry was doing everything it could to stop fraud, but was worried about “pestering” too many innocent people.

“False positives are a real challenge for us,” the source said.

“We can’t be calling up our customers and blocking their accounts without good reason to think they may have been targeted by fraud.

“So we are developing lots of ways to target the criminals in a way that won’t harm us commercially.”

Huge amounts of money lost to fraud

According to UK Finance’s Take Five campaign, the average scam call lasts approximately 43 minutes. On average, a payment is made half way through that call. This could mean someone’s life savings are lost in less than half an hour.

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