Cutting-edge mapping technology that is capturing serial killers and bank robbers in the US is set to become the Australian financial sector's new weapon against fraudsters, according to a leading financial specialist.

Geographic Information System (GIS) technology is widely used by the world’s largest law enforcement agencies – such as the FBI and Los Angeles and New York Police Departments – to profile and track down criminals based on behavioural and movement patterns.

Speaking to more than 1,000 of the nation’s leading financial services professionals at the Technology and Innovation conference in Sydney today, Esri Australia Principal Consultant Gary Johnson said it was inevitable that banks would adopt the same technology in their arsenal against fraud.

“GIS technology enables detectives to draw links between the geography of crimes, victims and perpetrators and cross-check this with information on behavioural patterns and other historical data,” Mr Johnson said.

“Notorious U.S. truck-driving serial killer Robert Ben Rhoades – who was suspected of more than 300 murders – was caught in this way when investigators mapped and analysed his driving habits and crime locations against missing person’s reports – placing him at the scene of his crimes.

“We’re starting to see many of the world’s leading financial institutions apply this geographic-based methodology to bank fraud – by using GIS technology to create detailed customer behaviour profiles based on where someone lives, works and shops.

“By comparing these customer profiles with transactions, banks can instantly identify when activities occur that are unusual, indicating a potential fraud.

“For example, if an elderly customer is known to exclusively withdraw cash by visiting their local branch – an occurrence where money is withdrawn from their account at a branch 100 kilometres away would be instantly identified through GIS technology as outside their profile and ‘red light’ it for the bank to act on.”

Bank fraud costs the sector hundreds of millions each year, with industry figures showing almost $240 million was stolen from customer credit and debit cards last year alone.

However, Mr Johnson said looking at direct losses from fraud was only seeing half the picture.

“While identifying and stopping the illegitimate transactions is important, so is allowing the legitimate ones to take place,” Mr Johnson said.

“False positives – when banks turn down loan or card applications based on misidentified fraud activity – can cut deep into a bank’s bottom line and, even worse, affect their reputation.

“GIS technology enables banks to tighten their protection mechanisms and develop an accurate and comprehensive fraud detection system.”

Mr Johnson said the large amount of information banks already held about their customers would make the adoption of GIS technology into fraud detection processes quicker and simpler.

“Banks already have all of the customer data they need – and with GIS technology, they can transform this data into comprehensive behaviour profile databases that trigger an alert when unusual or suspicious transactions occur.”

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