Brexit & Cybercrime: Beware of Phishing and other Digital Fraud Risk

Actimize FMC Product Team, Financial Markets Compliance

As we continue to see from the ongoing headlines, the changes in the UK political party leadership, and some of the stock market gyrations, the Brexit news is still a major world story. There is little doubt that while things will eventually settle down, it will impact nearly all vertical industries and many geographies far from British shores. With that in mind, one industry that is likely already looking into how to exploit the outcome of the Brexit referendum are cybercriminals.

Specifically, I am referring to the likelihood that cybercriminals will use the Brexit as yet another newsworthy event that makes it easy for them to manipulate consumers (and perhaps some bankers). The precedent for this is well-known; after other significant events, targeted phishing campaigns designed to take advantage of the uncertainty were experienced by the general public.

It is probably only a matter of time until phishing campaigns start (if they haven’t already) that aim to separate UK residents from their money. Imagine titles to these emails such as “Have your benefits transferred before [insert made up deadline here]?” or how about “Protect your assets before the EU claims them” or other such nonsense. Unfortunately, people in the UK with limited means, limited education, and perhaps also those with a general penchant for paranoia are likely to fall for such scams.

And of course this isn’t limited to email; phone calling campaigns targeting the elderly and other susceptible populations will likely also become something of a norm, especially as the negotiations with the EU drag on for what appears now may be nearly 2 years.

So what’s a UK resident to do?

  • UK residents should realize that requests and demands that they are purportedly from their banks and other financial institutions are nonsense.
  • UK residents should recognize that the Brexit does not impact their own personal accounts.
  • Share this information with their own institution if/when it appears to make them aware of any campaigns that are occurring.

Finally, what is the government to do?

  • The UK Government should be concerned about this and should make it crystal clear to the public that money transfers will not be asked of them, that people should not worry about the funds in their bank accounts, and that anyone asking to change things is likely a fraudster. This form of education can be done via government websites, pro-active media campaigns, and the like, using sites such as this one as a basis for this communication.
  • The UK banks will also probably be enlisted by the government to educate their clientele and to explain that the Brexit doesn’t impact the average person’s bank account or personal money or pension payments. The UK banks, pension funds, and other financial services providers can communicate this message online, through their mobile apps, paper statements, and the like.
  • If this problem arises and becomes significant, information-sharing would be a wise step that would help reduce some of these concerns. The UK Government has already pursued this strategy of information-sharing and doing more in this arena could be another option. This could be within the private sector alone or could include public sector participation.
  • Lastly, it would behoove the UK Government to get in front of this situation before it becomes a significant issue. I suspect that at the moment it is not something that is causing significant harm. That being said, it is likely that cybercriminals will take advantage of this period to target the more vulnerable parts of the population and therefore protecting these groups is of the utmost importance.


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