The volume of scams in the national financial system should reach the expressive mark of R$ 2.5 billion this year. And the estimate is that a considerable part of this amount (about R$ 1.8 billion, or more than 70%) has to do with Pix, the instant payments system of the Central Bank (BC) that went into operation in 2020 and which quickly became popular. The banks’ estimate for the end of 2022, obtained by Estadão, takes into account data up to June – a period in which frauds already totaled BRL 1.7 billion, of which BRL 900 million through Pix.
Financial system sources claim that this number, however, may be underestimated, since not all scams are reported to banks by customers. Officially, there is no consolidated number, but with the increase in the digitization of operations during the pandemic, fraud is estimated to have tripled in two years.
A survey carried out by Serasa Experian showed that, in May 2021, a total of 331,200 Brazilians were victims of some type of fraud, with more than 176,000 occurrences (53.3%) being carried out from bank accounts. or credit cards – two months earlier, in March, that number was 79,900. The study analyzes numbers related to crimes such as misuse of identity and opening of accounts and issuance of cards without authorization.
The anti-fraud arm of the Boa Vista credit monitoring service, Konduto also identified the seriousness of the problem: from January to April this year alone, there were about 9 million attempts at commercial fraud related to the cloning of credit cards and theft of personal data. In April alone, there were 2 million occurrences, an increase of 117% in relation to the same month of the previous year.
In addition to data theft by hackers, another type of crime that has grown in the country is fraud classified as “social engineering”, which consists of psychologically manipulating the user to provide confidential information, such as card and account passwords. A recent survey by the Brazilian Federation of Banks (Febraban) pointed to a 165% increase in this type of scam since the beginning of the pandemic. This year, 1 in 3 Brazilians suffered a coup attempt of this type, according to the association.
Financial fraud is a global problem that appears to be comparatively more serious in Brazil. In a February 2022 study, IBM revealed that 31% of Brazilians said they had suffered some type of credit card-related scam in the previous year. In Germany, for example, this figure was 7% and, in the US, 18%.
“Brazil is a hostile market and it has a public security problem,” says Fabiana Saenz, a security specialist at Zetta, the association that represents fintechs (financial sector startups) in Brazil. “When we present Brazilian cases in international cybersecurity forums, foreigners are quite impressed with the way criminals here work,” says José Luis Santana, cybersecurity leader at C6 Bank.
Director of institutional relations at Nubank, Bruno Magrani says that a group was formed to discuss security improvements with the Central Bank. This group includes Zetta, Febraban, Abipag (Brazilian Association of Payment Institutions), Abranet (Brazilian Internet Association) and ABBC (Brazilian Association of Banks).
One of the ideas discussed today is cascading blocking of attacking accounts. “One of the characteristics of criminals is to move money very quickly between several accounts. The current process to block a victim account of a scam is very time consuming. Our idea is to be able to block accounts that make the money’s path through different financial institutions”, says Magrani.
The president of the Central Bank, Roberto Campos Neto, has already signaled concern about the issue of fraud. In a hearing in the Chamber of Deputies, he spoke about the work of curbing “orange accounts”, opened with documents from other people, without authorization. This is an attempt to improve tracking of stolen money.
Retired Patricia Leão, 58, was the victim of a series of scams in a matter of days. At the end of last year, she received a message on WhatsApp from a man who pretended to be one of her brothers – including, with a name and profile picture. The scammer said he had acquired a new cell phone, with the justification that the old device would only be used for professional contacts.
The script isn’t new, but the situation seemed pertinent at the time. “Coincidentally, my brother would do the same, because he has a micro-company of mining products and was advised to leave a number just for work”, he explains.
Then, the pensioner was asked if she could pay someone on her brother’s behalf. “I made the payment and created a story in my head. I thought it was a payment from a supplier, and that he really was in trouble at the bank,” she recalls.
In the following days, Patricia said that she was called again and made a total of five transfers. The pensioner says that it didn’t occur to her to send a message to the number her brother used to use, and that she didn’t even consider going to his house, a few blocks from where she lives, in Belo Horizonte.
“It sounds like a soap opera story, I don’t know how to explain what happened. We create a story, become part of it and don’t reason about it”, laments Patricia. The discovery that it was a scam, the pensioner explained, only came on Thursday, when she told the story to another brother, who tried unsuccessfully to call the scammer’s number. In the end, Patricia had a loss of R$ 39.7 thousand.
The pensioner filed a police report with the Civil Police and called the two banks where she was a customer. She says that no suspect has been located so far, and that the amount has not been reimbursed. The justification given by one of the financial institutions was that the scam had to have been identified on the same day as the transactions.
Patrícia still says she received other approaches from scammers posing as her brother in the following months. “My name must have been around, someone must be taking advantage of the R$ 39 thousand until today.”
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