Company owners and managers attempt to be laser focused on all aspects of their businesses. However, financial fraud
prevention can take a back seat to other issues. Few have the time or assets to adhere to every precaution, from network security to routing and account number protection. Moreover, most aren’t aware of the profoundly negative ramifications of financial fraud on business fortunes. Combine these factors, and we have a recipe for the steadily increasing incidence of financial fraud afflicting U.S. companies.
How swiftly has that crime grown? The 2018 losses were twice those recorded in 2017, when BEC generated $676 million in losses.
Theft of checks remains a common way check and ACH debit fraud occurs, says Mary M. Schuh, vice president of operations at Leaders Bank in Oak Brook, Ill. Checks sent through the mail for companies’ business use can be stolen. Before the companies are aware their checks have not arrived at the correct address, the fraudsters have altered these checks by means of a procedure known as “check washing.” The altered checks bear new names but identical account numbers, and are used to drain those accounts.
“One thing we’ve noticed about check fraud is that more and more of the fraudsters are able to remotely deposit checks, making it easier to get paid on them,” Schuh says.
“Right now, customers do not want to walk into the bank. They want to take a picture of the check with their phone. The teller doesn’t have a chance to physically handle a check to determine whether it’s authentic.”
Routing and account number theft can lead to another increasingly prevalent scam, ACH debit fraud, says Gina Phipps, Leaders’ vice president of treasury management. “Someone has your routing number and account number, and they put through a payment from that account to themselves,” she says. “Or fraudsters act as legitimate business customers of the bank and request money be wired to them.”
A July 2019 report by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) found BEC has grown dramatically. Suspicious activity reports describing BEC soared from 500 a month in 2016 to more than 1,100 a month in 2018. Manufacturing and construction were the most targeted industries for BEC in both 2017 and 2018.
Because some of the methods that fraudsters use are virtually impossible for their targets to stop on their own, many businesses partner with their financial institutions to protect their accounts.
The steps companies should take to combat financial fraud include check positive pay, ACH blocks or filters and updating anti-virus software.
To implement check positive pay, customers upload to their bank all information about check recipients, check amounts and payment dates, Phipps says. “The bank can confirm transactions are legitimate,” she adds.
ACH blocks or filters protect customers from ACH debit fraud. “The customer tells us who is allowed to debit their account,” Phipps says. “If a request for an ACH transfer comes from someone other than those on the list, the bank checks electronically and automatically to learn if the customer wants to pay or return that exception item. “
On the email side, updating anti-virus software and confirming customer wishes before automatically approving emailed requests are key precautionary steps, Schuh says.
Frequently, companies won’t institute protections until they become targets, Phipps says. “By then, they may have suffered financial losses,” she adds. “Implement check positive pay, ACH filters and review bank accounts daily to avoid financial loss.”
In summary, when companies conduct the correct proactive procedures, they can greatly reduce their chances of being victims of financial fraud.
Originally published in Illinois Manufacturer magazine: https://ima-net.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/2020.Q1.TIM_.pdf