How Multimodal Biometrics Help Banks and Retailers Fight Fraud During Times of Disruption

By Brett Beranek, Vice President & General Manager, Security & Biometrics, Nuance Communications

When disruption strikes, fraudsters are incredibly fast to shift their tactics and exploit new vulnerabilities. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, we clearly saw the agility and opportunism of fraudsters as they preyed on consumers’ fear and the chaos created by entire workforces suddenly working from home. In fact, between January 1, 2020, and November 20, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission reported total pandemic-related fraud losses of more than $952 million.

Any sudden change can be a source of opportunity for career fraudsters. For example, when the student loan debt forgiveness program was announced, criminals jumped at the chance to run debt relief scams. Using social engineering techniques, fraudsters persuaded their victims to hand over money and personally identifiable information (PII). 

Fraudsters also use seasonal fluctuations in consumer demand to find chinks in organizations’ armor. As retailers enter the peak sales season between Black Friday and the New Year, for example, fraudsters will target contact center agents coping with massively increased workloads. Overworked, stressed agents are far more susceptible to social engineering tactics, making it much easier for fraudsters to commit their crimes.

Fortunately, with AI-powered biometrics, organizations can fight back against fraudsters and the criminal networks they support, and render their social engineering tactics useless.

Take the fight to the fraudsters with multimodal biometrics

The organizations fighting fraud most successfully use multiple types of biometrics  to protect interactions across channels by authenticating individuals based on factors intrinsic to who they are:

  • Voice biometrics—measuring a person’s unique “voiceprint” against millions of parameters
  • Conversational biometrics—continuously authenticating people based on factors like word choice, grammar, and the emojis and acronyms they use

By combining biometric and non-biometric factors (like environment detection and call forensics) into a central AI risk engine, organizations can authenticate legitimate customers and identify known fraudsters with a high degree of certainty. Biometric authentication is also ideal for spotting “fraud mules” working from scripts, which can be a major problem when criminals roll out large-scale campaigns to take advantage of disruption.

This AI-first approach to fraud prevention makes socially-engineered PII nearly useless to fraudsters. It doesn’t matter what information they’ve stolen, bought, or convinced people to hand over, because biometrics solutions verify identities based on who someone is, not what they know.

Biometric security also removes the burden of authentication from agents’ shoulders. Instead of interrogating customers for PII and making on-the-fly assessments of fraud risk, agents can focus on providing stellar service. Some organizations are even using passive voice biometrics in the interactive voice response (IVR) system to authenticate customers and spot fraudsters before they get to an agent.

And no matter how persuasive a fraudster is, with biometric security, agents don’t need to verify customers’ credentials, so they can’t reveal any PII—another nail in the coffin of social engineering.

The biometrics win-win-win

Organizations using biometric security can dramatically reduce their fraud losses—often by more than 90%. And because it’s harder to get through these organizations’ defenses, fraudsters shift their focus elsewhere, reducing fraud attacks in the long term.

Meanwhile, agents are happier because they don’t have to interrogate customers and make fraud judgment calls. Removing lengthy traditional authentication processes also significantly reduces average handle times, helping agents be more productive without burning out.

Finally, biometric security is a win for customers. Instead of wasting time proving who they are, they enjoy frictionless interactions, faster service, and personalized experiences, helping them feel known and valued.

Making anti-fraud teams more effective

For fraud prevention and security professionals, AI-powered authentication brings many additional benefits. With biometric security stopping most fraud before it happens, anti-fraud teams can focus on investigating the most important cases without being overwhelmed by false alerts that are common to traditional authentication.

Anti-fraud teams can also analyze biometric authentication data to identify repeat offenders and organized criminals and trace their activities back to criminal networks. Some financial services institutions, for example, are using data and insights from biometric authentication to assist law enforcement agencies with apprehending criminals and bringing them to justice.

Ultimately, the growing adoption of biometric authentication is shifting the balance of power away from fraudsters, nullifying many of their preferred tactics, and making it harder for them to capitalize on disruption. And that means organizations—and their customers—can stay protected from criminals no matter what challenges the future brings.

Brett Beranek is the Vice-President & General Manager of Security & Biometrics at Nuance Communications, where he is responsible for overseeing the security and biometric business.





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