Instant payments could open the door to cyber fraud

Australia is set to welcome a brand new national payments system within the next two weeks, but the instant transfers system could bring with it an elevated risk of cyber fraud.

The New Payments Platform (NPP), set to be unveiled in early-to-mid February, will do away with the days of waiting up to three days for a bank transaction to be finalised, but also puts more pressure on login and password security, an industry expert has warned.

The system will allow Australians to create a "payment ID" using their phone number, email or ABN, giving way to instantly-received payments and associated details.

But the head of fraud and identity at global information services company Experian, Jon Malone, questions the ability of banks to intervene in the real-time processing of transactions that may be fraudulent.

"The days to protect from fraud and detect it before it happens are long gone in NPP-land," Mr Malone told Domain.

And while an NPP spokesperson responded by saying "the New Payments Platform has been built with security and fraud absolutely front of mind", and that all banks, credit unions and building societies have to have the capability to detect and respond to fraudulent activity, their efforts can only go so far.

Mr Malone says password security is now more important than ever, with security risks to the NPP concentrated around the ability of fraudsters to steal login details and break into accounts.

It's a risk the NPP is aware of, with a spokesperson telling Domain, "consumers should continue to be alert to potential scammers that try and trick you into making a payment to them, or trick you into giving them your online banking login credentials".

Thirteen banks will be a part of the NPP, including CBA, NAB, ANZ and Westpac, and many other smaller credit unions and mutual banks joining in due to their association with the big four.

Malone pointed to the British experience as providing cautionary tales for how banks and fraudsters may respond to the launch of an instant payment system - Britain launched its version of the NPP in 2008, called Faster Payments, which was subject to a series of frauds.

Looking beyond the potential for fraudsters to take advantage of the new system, the NPP may provide relief at a time where household budgets are being tightened and consumer confidence is under close watch.

"Incomes are under pressure and consumers look reluctant to spend - possibly even looking to lift savings instead," Westpac economists noted this week following its latest consumer sentiment survey, which showed an overall modest lift into 'cautiously optimistic territory'.

The NPP declined to put a date on the Australian launch due to "governance reasons", but said the system was on track for early-to-mid-February.

This story Instant payments could open the door to cyber fraud first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.