The following is a conversation with award-winning crime reporter Diamant Salihu, who’s speaking at BioCatch’s Threat Talk Live in Copenhagen on April 23. It’s been translated from Swedish to English.

Hi there, Diamant. You’ll be speaking to bankers working on fraud about the criminal gang environment. What are you going to talk about?

I want bankers to be motivated and feel that for every fraud they stop, they will make it more difficult for organized crime to thrive and that they may also even be saving lives.

Why do you think Swedish bankers need to learn more about gang criminals?

In Belgium and the Netherlands, where the major ports for cocaine smuggling are located, they talk about organized crime as a threat to democracy. That's what it's all about in the long-term for us in the Nordic Region too. We have street violence fueled by drugs and fraud, but also the risk of infiltration of the authorities and corporations. A bank employee who is a drug customer risks being blackmailed into doing favors for organized crime organizations.

How are gang criminals involved in fraud?

In Sweden, the police authorities estimate that a large part of the 5.8 billion SEK in criminal profits generated by fraud goes to organized crime. Where there is big money to be made, there are gang criminals. They’re everywhere.

What is the most important thing for bankers to understand about gang involvement in fraud? 

That a bank employee who can prevent fraud can actually make such a difference when money is prevented from entering the gang's cycle, wherein finances are used to buy everything from drugs to guns and ammunition, or even contract killing.

What is a gang's approach to fraud?

There are a thousand different methods, and what I have learned from following a number of fraudsters is that they are constantly developing their methods. They collaborate with other fraudsters, quickly learn the banks' new security procedures, withdrawal limits and systems. Therefore, banks must adapt quickly if they are to have any chance of keeping up. I know that more and more criminals will now also see how they can use AI to their advantage.

How do you see the development of fraud carried out by gang criminals?

In Sweden, it is a form of crime that generates increasing criminal profits, which of course means that it is seen as an increasingly lucrative way to go. You have to understand that the criminal environment is like a business with all kinds of specializations, where some become very skilled fraudsters, others hitmen, etc. But the money all moves in the same cycle. And the problems are growing. Knowing that the detection rate is low (three percent in Sweden) and that it is relatively easy to deceive people and banks, it will continue to be a lucrative career to make quick and big money. 

Looking ahead: What are the most important changes that need to be made to reduce fraud?

When I recently spoke on our evening program Aktuellt on Swedish Television, I actually asked a fraudster just before the live broadcast about a quick measure that would make it more difficult for the fraudsters. The answer I got was: Lower the withdrawal limit in cases where the bank customer has added a completely new account. Ensure that the customer calls the bank in order to increase the limit. This step would make it more difficult for the fraudsters, according to the fraudster himself. So there are seemingly very simple measures that can be taken to protect customers' money going forward. 

However, banks need to be constantly updating themselves on methods to try to keep up with fraudsters, especially now that AI fraud is likely to increase. 

What I've heard from bankers working at various different banks is that there should be more cooperation between banks, meaning more information sharing. This is not only to identify mules but also to develop new ways of working. The explanation I have received from bank employees as to why there is not more cooperation between banks already is simple: We are competitors. 

The last part is of course about legislation that will also help to make spoofing more difficult and make it more difficult to commit fraud. 

Threat Talk Live Copenhagen takes place on April 23 at the Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel in Copenhagen. 

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