Keeping a Watchful Eye on the Payment Fraud Landscape: The Never Ending Battle to Protect Corporate Assets

Keeping a Watchful Eye on the Payment Fraud Landscape: The Never Ending Battle to Protect Corporate Assets

Staying one step ahead of fraudsters is the goal of the payments industry, but this is no easy task. As fast as new payment methods are introduced, new criminal schemes are quick to follow. In fact, according to the 2015 AFP Payments Fraud and Control Survey, 62 percent of companies were targets of payments fraud in 2014.

While online data breaches garner the lion’s share of the newspaper headlines, the vast majority of payment fraud today still happens with good old-fashioned paper. The AFP survey reports that paper checks remain the most frequently targeted payment method, representing 77 percent of corporate payment fraud. Credit and debit card fraud is the next most prevalent form, effecting 34 percent of payments, while wire fraud accounts for 27 percent of illicit activities.

Understanding your vulnerabilities and fraud risks is crucial in order to develop effective strategies to address this pervasive and persistent problem.

Checks Remain Highly Vulnerable to Fraud

While the use of electronic payments has grown steadily, paper check volumes have remained largely the same. Billions of checks continue to be processed every year, presenting an attractive target for fraudsters. As a result, corporates should be vigilant when it comes to carefully controlling check stock, limiting check signers and regularly balancing account statements.

All too often, organizations fall behind in this most basic of processes. Even with easily accessed account information, made possible through online banking portals such as Fifth Third Direct, some companies fall behind in reconciling payments, making it harder to catch fraud in a timely manner. Advanced protection tools, like Positive Pay, allow Treasury to monitor and detect unusual or unauthorized activities, mitigating fraud risk.

Your Worst Enemy Might Be You: The Unchecked Spread of Information

The volume of information we share about ourselves across social media platforms may make for great interactions with friends, family and colleagues, but in the hands of fraudsters, it can be used against us. Those with malicious intent can put your company’s assets at risk by leveraging easily accessible information, such as personal contact information, work history and financial data. Once armed with sufficient information about you, they can use various schemes to gain unauthorized access to systems and accounts or trick others into thinking you have authorized transactions. It is important to remember that our personal digital lives are inextricably linked to our business lives so we must remain vigilant in protecting vital data.

Avoiding the "This Can't Happen to Me" Trap

One thing about fraud is that it is an equal opportunity problem. That said, many organizations operate under the mistaken belief that it simply will never happen to them. All too often, companies do not take full advantage of valuable tools, such as Positive Pay, or ACH and Debit blocking, that can help fight fraud. A common refrain from corporates who do not deploy the anti-malware software Fifth Third offers is that it slows down systems, is too sophisticated to install, or they lack on-site maintenance expertise. When failure to use the latest fraud prevention tools is combined with the misguided belief that they will not be targeted, corporates are literally rolling the dice. Avoiding fraud requires vigilance. It is critically important to take advantage of the expertise and the latest technologies offered by Fifth Third and the rest of your banking partners in order to stay ahead of a very determined foe. Fifth Third’s fraud mitigation software is easy to install and we offer technical assistance to customers who need it to ensure tools are working as intended and providing critical protections.

Data Breaches Demonstrate Ingenuity of Fraudsters

Recent data breaches at national retail organizations have revealed the sophistication of fraudsters and the ingenuity of their attacks. In stealing sensitive customer information, these schemes have penetrated purportedly secure data centers and compromised card terminals to siphon off vital data. As a result of these breaches, counterfeit commercial cards have been used to create fraudulent charges on corporate accounts. Beyond the inconvenience of closely monitoring activities and then disputing illegitimate charges, card holders also face the potential prospect of having legitimate transactions declined or blocked due to suspicious account activity.

As banks, including Fifth Third, work to combat these threats by issuing cards imbedded with highly secure Chip and PIN technology, and merchants increasingly embrace this new technology, corporates can gain an upper hand against fraud.

The one thing that rings true for the future is that organizations of all sizes will need to remain focused on preventing fraud and taking every step they can to protect their assets. Fraud is a global problem; one that requires our fullest attention. 

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Fifth Third Bank and are solely the opinions of the author. This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, or other professional services by Fifth Third Bank or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, and are provided without any warranty whatsoever. Deposit and credit products provided by Fifth Third Bank.