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Victor Fredung, Shufti Pro: “financial gain is the basic purpose of stealing identities”

Cybercriminals make a profit from demanding a ransom, stealing private information, and - on a new scale - from stealing identities. While on the surface it doesn’t seem like much of a danger, a new identity can allow threat actors to take loans, transfer funds, and even commit crimes in another person’s name.

Current statistics concerning identity theft are worrying, as the problem seems to be affecting a large proportion of the population. For example, 47% of Americans reported financial identity theft last year, with seniors over 60 cited as the most common victims, according to IdentityForce. According to another research, 87% of people have had their information exposed or compromised, which makes most of the Internet users potential targets for cybercriminals hunting for vulnerable identities.

Victor Fredung, CEO of Shufti Pro, which provides identity verification solutions, talked to us about the current challenges and innovations in the screening services industry as a way to tackle identity theft.

Can you tell us a little bit about Shufti Pro? What has your journey been like?

The Founder and CTO of Shufti Pro, Shahid Hanif, was working as a developer in a financial institution in 2012. He had to integrate a famous KYC solution as part of major digitization in the company. However, it took an ample amount of time for that company to integrate the solution and revert to manual KYC. That’s not all. Shahid had another terrible KYC experience in 2017 for receiving an international payment. The tedious process took around a month to complete and was not at all user-friendly. By that time, he had decided to introduce a better service that would bridge the gap in the digital identity verification service. The same year, Shufti Pro’s AI-backed KYC and AML screening services were introduced in October.

I took over the reins in 2018 and since then, we have offered a wide array of services to businesses across the globe, including Video Interview KYC, OCR for Business, NFC Verification, KYB (Business Verification), and Digital Covid Certificate Verification.

Since face verification is becoming a common practice, what methods do threat actors attempt using to bypass this safety measure?

According to experts at Shufti Pro, perpetrators use spoofing techniques like face masks as an attempt to bypass face verification. While performing face verification for our clients, we encountered a rise in digital replay attacks and deepfakes to hinder biometric verification. Fraudsters, in the digital world, are also employing artificial intelligence for their illicit gains. However, they cannot bypass facial verification given the AI-backed system is robust and ensures the highest possible accuracy.

It is reported that social media fraud has grown exponentially in the past few years. What are the most popular scams, and what groups fall for them most often?

A few days back, I was going through a report that said: “social media fraud has increased by a whopping 60% since 2017”. Some of the most popular scams include account takeover fraud, new account fraud, identity theft, catfishing, and phishing attacks. There’s no specific age group that is likely to fall prey to these scams because I have come across cases of the elderly (50 - 60 years of age) complaining about catfishing scams. On the other hand, today’s tech-savvy youth are also becoming victims of phishing and identity theft.

What should be done immediately if one’s identity was, after all, stolen?

Immediately report to the country’s authority responsible for online scams. For instance, identity theft victims in the UK have to report Action Fraud about the incident. US citizens have to inform IdentityTheft.gov, Federal Trade Commission’s body responsible for identity theft cases in the States. All these watchdogs provide the victim with a recovery plan. Once reported, victims must change all passwords and notify banks to avoid any monetary loss.

Have you noticed any emerging cyberthreats as a result of the pandemic?

Absolutely, the pandemic turned out to be an opportunity for cybercriminals. Imposters used the worsening Covid situation as bait. On the other hand, selling fake vaccines and forged Covid certificates became very common. The Guardian revealed that fake Covid documents are being sold on the dark web for as little as £25. The new travel restrictions require Covid test authentication, and with fake vaccine passports rolling out, the travel and hospitality sectors have hurdles in meeting these requirements. Considering these issues, Shufti Pro introduced Digital Covid Certificate Verification to help the travel sector verify the legitimacy of vaccine passports.

What do criminals usually try to gain by taking advantage of the identities of enterprises versus the ones of individuals?

Financial gain is the basic purpose of stealing identities, whether an enterprise is targeted or an individual. With stolen IDs, criminals create fake accounts and synthetic identities for illicit activities. For instance, if the identity of an enterprise is stolen, a fake bank account under the company’s name can be created, which may be used for laundering money overseas. The transaction threshold is relatively higher for business accounts, so it’s a viable option for bad actors.

What protective measures can companies take? Alternatively, what can average internet users do to protect their identity?

Companies must employ Two-Factor authentication (2FA), ensure identity verification both for customers and employees. On the contrary, individuals must ensure antivirus software and avoid using public WiFis.

What identity verification methods do you think will become widespread in the near future?

Biometrics is going to gain more popularity in the near future. The strategically strong fraudsters are now switching to biometric fraud attempts which is now increasing the demand for biometric identity verification measures. Furthermore, the need for ongoing identity verification protocols is set to increase, given the evolving regulatory landscape and changing methods of criminal activities.

Would you like to share what’s next for Shufti Pro?

Shufti Pro is now aimed at achieving the “identity verification in milliseconds” goal and assisting all types of businesses in their fight against identity fraud and financial crimes.

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