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Automated calls, fraud and the banks: a mismatch made in hell

Here's a podcast of my recent Guardian column, Automated calls, fraud and the banks: a mismatch made in hell:

The banks are now outsourcing their fraud prevention to computers that can make dozens of calls all at once, around the clock, fishing (or phishing) for someone who just happened to have made an unusual purchase and is thus willing to spill all his details down the phone to get it approved. Note that most of the categories of purchase that trigger false positives from fraud detection systems are also the sort of thing that customers are anxious to see go off without a hitch. The unusual and the urgent often travel together.

MoneyBox took up the question of robo-calls on 22 September, with a series of finance industry executives explaining their position on robo-call anti-fraud systems. As Money Box pointed out, customers don't know what automated fraud prevention calls are supposed to sound like, or which questions are supposed to be asked. They missed that even if this were common knowledge, it would be trivial to make a homemade robo-caller that perfectly mimicked the calls, and set it loose to call around the clock, to many victims at once.

Santander's statement was that the system allows it to "reach more customers, more quickly, all at the same time". It didn't mention that it's a lot cheaper than paying humans to make those calls, of course. On the other hand, it invited its customers to opt out of the service. But a customer that doesn't even know the service exists won't opt out of it – and if a customer's first experience with a robo-caller is with a fraudulent one, they won't have had a chance to opt out until it's too late.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

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