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UK banks hope to send phishing mules packing

Extra security checks

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UK banks plan to delay transfers between account holders of the same group by up to a day in order to introduce new security checks. The move is designed to help thwart phishing attacks that cost British banks an estimated £12m last year. NatWest, Halifax and Barclays have all introduced the security measure, the BBC reports.

Direct debits and most other payments will not be affected by the extra checks, Barclays spokesman John Warren told the BBC's Money Box programme. "We are introducing a day's delay to payments made by Barclay's customers to other Barclays bank holders which are made for the first time. It just allows our systems and procedures to check and validate their payments... and spot payments that are unusual," he said.

Scam emails that form the basis of phishing attacks commonly pose as 'security check' emails from well-known businesses. These messages attempt to trick users into handing over their account details and passwords to bogus sites. Typically, the fraudsters behind the 'phishing' scams are located outside the UK. Since they are unable to transfer money directly from a victims' online account overseas, UK intermediaries - or 'mules' - are hired to transfer money into other UK bank accounts before sending it overseas. The extra security checks are designed to thwart this stage of the scam.

Although UK bank's losses from phishing attacks are still relatively low the volume of attacks has increased, prompting banks to take action. Banks, under pressure to speed up electronic payments, introduced plans to introduce a new infrastructure by 2007 on Monday. Consumers groups said extra security checks to prevent phishing must not be allowed to derail this process.

Laurence Baxter, Senior Policy Advisor at consumers' association Which? said: "They could do more on security if they need to. But they cannot use this as an excuse to sit on people's money for days on end. We would like to see payments sped up to same day or overnight and we would like to see the banks ensuring that there are proper security measures to do that," he said. ®

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