Fraud prevention lessons we can learn from the Covid-19 pandemic

The extraordinary circumstances that led to the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020, have only been matched by the extraordinary response of our health care professionals, essential workers and governments fighting the pandemic. Despite the best efforts of public health experts and epidemiologists, the virus penetrated borders and spread across the globe. The social, economic and health consequences of Covid-19 have been devastating and require powerful solutions and global cooperation to, eventually, overcome.

Not to mention, in the current economic and health crisis, companies, employees, and just about everyone else, are under incredible financial pressure and has heightened the risk of fraud across the board. Individuals who would never have rationalised an activity like fraud, stealing or identity theft, but the reality is that many have lost their livelihoods and are desperate.

In addition, the huge digital migration that has resulted from increasing remote work and booming online shopping will expose more companies and more individuals to the possibility of fraud. The sharp increase in the risk of digital fraud is not all that links fraud and the pandemic. Fraud prevention techniques should be informed by the strategies we are using to fight the virus.

So, what is the connection between fraud prevention and combating a pandemic? Fighting Covid-19 has included the processes of identifying potential risks, educating those who are exposed, conducting tests to detect problem areas and finding the best route for treatment and recovery. The plans laid out by health professionals, organisations and governments can inform the plans made by companies to fight fraud within their digital walls.

Three lessons from fighting Covid-19 that can improve fraud prevention methods

The strategies that were undertaken by different authorities followed three approaches that have served them well over the course of the pandemic. These three approaches are: Education, Testing and Treatment. These approaches combined have served as a powerful public health measure for preventing the spread of the virus.

For the purposes of fraud, a parallel can be drawn to a company spreading useful information, the monitoring of potential risks and the recovery process needed when a company has experienced some kind of fraudulent activity

First lesson: Education and Information

It is not just Covid-19 prevention which includes educating the public about what good health practices should be followed and individuals how to avoid exposing yourself to different communicable diseases. For example, during the pandemic, international and local health authorities have been increasing public awareness by encouraging every person to wash their hands, socially distance and wear a mask to prevent the spread of the virus.

The comparable fraud prevention methods would include educating the members of your company about the risks associated with different fraudulent activity. This helps improve employee awareness about your organisation’s exposure to risk, the anti-fraud policies and procedures that you follow and the relevant domestic authorities, regulations, laws and local processes.

Second Lesson: Testing

In order to fight a pandemic, the government needs to know who has the virus and where its numbers are rising. The data provided by widespread and accessible testing offers public health officials and epidemiologists the insights they need to make strategic decisions. What areas require resources, information, equipment or lockdown measures. We can see which countries, communities and neighbourhoods have high or low infection rates.

While online security systems and antivirus software may offer strong protections against many unwanted digital intruders, there are far more insidious and dangerous types of fraud that do not begin with a corrupted email link. Analysing your organisation’s data can provide you with the insights you need to spot any red flags. Potential risks need to be identified, tracked and stopped and the data gathered should be used to educate and prevent fraudulent activity in the future.

Third Lesson: Treatment

But what happens if someone gets sick? The reality is that prevention will not always work and people will eventually contract the virus and it will spread: becoming an outbreak, then an epidemic and then a pandemic. We have learned a lot about PPE, respirators, infection rates and ICU capacity as well as what our various health care professionals. We isolate the infected, treat their symptoms and discharge them once they are no longer infectious.

The recovery process that comes after your organisation has been exposed to a fraud risk is incredibly tough. You have to identify what fraud has occurred, stop whoever is conducting the criminal activity and re-secure the area of business that was compromised.

Recovery measures should include adjusting local business models, secure online and digital systems, implement new and better prevention procedures and removing untrustworthy business partners and employees. This will decrease the likelihood of re-occurrence as well as strengthening your organisation’s defences in the future.

MarisIT have been helping South African companies secure and protect their online networks and digital systems for many years now. If you would like to benefit from our extensive experience and service in fraud prevention, contact MarisIT today.

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