One in 10 MFS users victims of fraud
About one in ten mobile financial services users said they have been victims of fraud, found a survey, underscoring the need for boosting the security of the platform to thwart social engineering.
"If you extrapolate it to the national statistic of the sector, it literally means millions have suffered from fraud," said Ashikur Rahman, senior economist at the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh (PRI), which surveyed 7,279 MFS users from 45 districts and 2,000 agents from 13 districts.
Of the respondents, 87 percent use bKash, 41 percent Nagad, 15 percent Rocket and 4 percent SureCash. As much as 91 percent of the respondents have their own accounts, while 5.6 percent were dependent on the agent for MFS transactions.
About 56 percent of the MFS users who were victims of fraud said either their PINs were compromised or the scams involved impersonation; 13 percent said their accounts were compromised.
The average size of loss from MFS fraud was about Tk 9,000.
About 30 percent of the fraud victims never had their complaints resolved.
The study found a strong link between the time required to address victims' complaints and their decision to continue to use MFS.
About 95 percent of the fraud victims who had their complaints solved in a day continued to use MFS, while those who never had their complaints looked into abandoned the platform for good.
"So, the satisfactory redress actually shapes whether the customers will continue the service," Rahman said.
The frauds are not specific to any gender or locality, according to the study, conducted with funding from Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.
The incidence of fraud is relatively higher for users with no higher educational degrees, implying that educated users can better recognise fraudulent activities in their MFS accounts, according to the paper titled 'The state of DFS (digital financial service) consumer protection in Bangladesh'.
Almost four out of five agents have received some sort of training before becoming an agent.
Findings also show that untrained agents are more vulnerable to fraud than trained agents, underscoring the need for training for mitigating fraud.
"The fraud is limiting the expansion of the MFS market," Rahman said.
About 45 percent of the population are not MFS users, and of them, 32 percent do not use the service due to fear of fraud.
Digital literacy and financial literacy among citizens before financial inclusion are very crucial and the private sector and the government can work together, said Sonia Bashir Kabir, founder and managing partner at SBK Tech Ventures and SBK Foundation.
"We are talking about consumer protection here, but the fact of the matter is that there are no consumer rights in the country," she added.
The potential of MFS is huge and growing, but fraud is a major challenge here, said Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of PRI.
"It's a big number that 9.3 percent of the consumers and 12 percent of the agents faced fraud. If we want to increase the users from 55 percent of the population to 85 percent, we have to address the fraud issue," he added.
Telecom Minister Mustafa Jabbar, PRI Chairman Zaidi Sattar and bKash Chief Executive Officer Kamal Quadir also spoke.