AI could be used in Jersey's new major crackdown on scammers

Robin Smith met with representatives from banks, telecom companies, cyber-crime and regulatory authorities to discuss and workshop how to target scams. (38020330)

A MAJOR crackdown on scams – potentially using AI to identify fraudulent activity – is being launched following a surge in organised-crime gangs conning Islanders out of their life savings.

Police chief Robin Smith recently met more than 30 senior representatives from banks, as well as cyber-crime and telephone companies, at the States police’s headquarters to discuss how to better collaborate on catching sophisticated scammers and protect Islanders’ money.

Techniques under development include using AI to identify fraudsters and stop unwanted calls, circulating warnings more quickly, “killing” scam numbers and setting up an incident room which could deal with new trends more quickly.

Mr Smith said: “If we could stop half of the scams currently going on, which would be a tremendous result, that would mean a lot fewer losses and a lot fewer victims.”

Sophisticated frauds sweeping the Island have been on the rise over the past year, and national figures show that these now account for around 40% of all crime.

Banks such as HSBC renewed warnings to Islanders last month and said “expert teams” were “working around the clock to identify suspicious transactions”.

And the JEP reported in March that the Joint Financial Crimes Unit was investigating a “spoofing” scam – where fraudsters impersonate banks – in which 68 victims across the Channel Islands had lost a total of more than £2 million.

Mr Smith said that these numbers could be higher because people will often not report being the victim of such crimes through embarrassment.

Speaking about the recent meeting, he said: “We spent the morning workshopping what we can do, with a main focus on dealing with the causes rather than the symptoms.

“The telephone companies – Sure, JT and Airtel – were all there to look at how we can try to stop scammer emails and ‘smishing’ (text messages).”

Mr Smith said: “We spent the rest of the discussion looking at what we can do technically to stop the calls happening in the first place. Once you know a particular number is being used, how can you kill the number off?

“Our colleagues from the three telephone companies had lots of exciting ideas and made a huge contribution about what we might explore, and they’ve gone off to explore some of those.”

He added that banks were also looking at different tactics to delay payments or use “innovative ideas” such as utilising AI.

A leading behavioural science consultancy, Influence at Work, was also there to educate attendees on how scammers “inject urgency” and “persuade Islanders to do something they would never usually do”.

Mr Smith said: “All in all, I was genuinely delighted with the outcome of that collaboration. The unanimous agreement was that we were all there collectively to protect Islanders and Islanders’ money, especially the most vulnerable Islanders.

“Next steps include developing an overarching strategy and how we can better mobilise together when we start getting a trend like some form of incident room. to deal with it very quickly.

“I don’t see any reason why, the next time we see a particular trend like we saw at the start of the year, we can’t bring everyone together with the Fraud Prevention Forum, getting the messages out to Islanders very quickly and working with agility.”

He added: “If we can’t crack it in Jersey in terms of the connectivity, relationships and collaboration, then we won’t crack it anywhere.

“Some people have lost a lot of money and it has little impact, but some people have lost a relatively small amount of money and it has had a life-changing impact.”

Last month, a lawyer told the JEP how she was “distraught” and in a “very dark place” after losing £13,000 to a “spoofing” scam in November.

She urged banks to do more to protect Islanders and their money.

JFCU financial investigator Faith Shalamon previously said: “Never provide online banking passwords, one-time security codes, pins or tokens to anyone over the phone.

“Contact your bank or financial institution immediately, using your banking app or a phone number you have sourced yourself, if you have concerns about the security of your bank account.”

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