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OCBC shifts from SMS to push notifications and emails for customer alerts on banking activities

OCBC Bank takes a bold step to enhance security by replacing SMS alerts with push notifications and emails, aiming to thwart phishing scams. Other Singaporean banks, including DBS and UOB, are adopting similar digital communication methods.



SINGAPORE: In a move to enhance security and combat phishing scams, OCBC Bank has announced that it will no longer be using SMS messages as the default method to inform its customers about banking activities.

Starting from 27 Oct, OCBC customers will receive alerts through push notifications and e-mails instead of SMS messages.

The decision, aimed at protecting customers from impersonation and phishing scams, comes as part of OCBC’s ongoing efforts to bolster security measures.

The bank had already initiated the use of push notifications and e-mails for various banking activities, including card transactions, cash withdrawals at local ATMs, PayNow fund transfers, and bill payments since October.

OCBC made it clear that customers still have the option to receive SMS messages if they prefer, but they are strongly encouraged to opt for push notifications and e-mails to enhance their protection against scams.

It is worth noting too that OCBC is not the only bank in Singapore taking this proactive step.

DBS and UOB have also been gradually shifting away from SMS messages in favor of e-mail and digital bank push notifications as their default channels of communication.

In the case of UOB, SMS messages for incoming PayNow transactions ceased on 1 March, with a transition to e-mails and push notifications.

Moreover, these collective efforts by Singaporean banks to combat scams have yielded positive results.

According to a statement from the Association of Banks in Singapore, the anti-scam efforts undertaken by retail banks have effectively prevented scammers from illicitly obtaining S$57.6 million from their victims in the initial nine months of 2023.

Additionally, the deployment of anti-malware tools by the banks has further thwarted losses, preventing at least S$18.6 million in potential damages.

Online debate erupts over banking changes: Security vs. Accessibility

However, there is a segment of internet users who have reservations about these changes and have voiced their opinions on social media regarding what they perceive as the “best” course of action.

Concerns have been raised, particularly with regard to the elderly or retirees, as some among them may not possess an email account or have access to the internet.

As a result, they support options such as “facial recognition or other physical methods like thumb verification,” considering them the most appropriate choices.

However, responses indicated that even facial recognition and thumb verification may not be entirely secure.

One user pointed out that SMS notifications are advantageous because they make it easier for customers to identify unauthorized transactions, as not everyone checks their email daily.

Conversely, some individuals argue for a return to more traditional methods, suggesting that “the only way forward is to go backwards” by reverting to the use of physical tokens.

They contend that such tokens are more secure against scams, citing concerns over potential email-related risks like viruses and hackers.

In the midst of the discussions, one user highlighted that OCBC already offers a physical token as an alternative solution.

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What exactly is a “push” notification? Isn’t the SMS “pushed” out by the bank also? The problem with emails is that it isn’t necessarily “on” all the time.

Josephine Teo the PAP Administration Mobster said that no matter how good a system is, people who are determined will break into it.

So OCBC, what do you think based on Josephine Teo’s Parliament speech – does it kick up your bloody ass?


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