B2B Payments

 Ransomware Gains Traction, UK BEC Fraud Spikes

Fraud attacks up at businesses

Ransomware, paid in bitcoin, is gaining traction as a way for fraudsters to bilk victims out of their money. Elsewhere, in the UK, business email compromise (BEC) scams are seeing a resurgence, with a doubling in activity as measured year over year.  

Aided by technology – and emboldened by the rise of cryptocurrencies – fraudsters are stepping up ransomware campaigns.

As reported earlier this week, a new strain of ransomware has been hitting US firms and firms based overseas. The latest news centers on  Sodinokibi, a ransomware strain that has helped fraudsters make higher ransom demands. Through that ransomware they have been hijacking companies’ systems and demanding bitcoin payment in exchange for a decryption key.

In comments reported earlier this week, cyber insurance security responder Tom Bennett of CFC Underwriting told The Financial Times that that claims surged in June and July.

“Ransomware groups tend to target people in the Anglosphere, who are seen as able to pay and deserving of what they get. They tend not to target poorer countries,” he said.  Payment terms have been higher, too. Payoffs have topped $150,000, where the average has been $50,000.

“The threat actors realized they can amplify their impact by targeting specific companies such as managed service providers,” said Bennett. “They are getting into an administration system, finding lists of client credentials and then installing [Sodinokibi] on all the clients’ systems.”

In The UK

In the United Kingdom, the UK Finance Department announced that the UK’s Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit, which operates as a specialized police unit that is in turn backed by financial institutions, as reported by govtinfosecurity.com, has dismantled 13 organized crime groups through the first half of the year, a rate that more than doubles that which was seen in the previous year.

Gary Robinson, who serves as head of DCPCU, said that online conduits are gaining favor from fraudsters to further their schemes.

“We are seeing gangs involved in drug trafficking and firearms offenses turning to fraud, targeting victims across the U.K. These criminals are exploiting new technologies to commit fraud, posting adverts on social media to try and recruit money mules,” he said.

As reported by the site, 39 fraudsters were convicted after investigations by the DCPCU, and they were sentenced to a combined total of more than 44 years of prison time. The unit seized the equivalent of more than $401,000 in assets from the criminals.  Fraud that was in turn prevented by the unit amounted to as much as $8.2 million in the first half of the year. Through the past 17 years, the unit has “disrupted” $732 million of fraud.

Corporate Wire Fraud

Separately, a federal grand jury has indicted a Maryland woman for allegedly bilking a Newark, Delaware medical practice of more than $320,000 through the use of a corporate credit card.

Kimberly Sponaugle, was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Delaware with one count of wire fraud. She allegedly used the card during her time as office manager for the unnamed practice to buy jewelry and limousine services, among other unauthorized purchases from January of 2012, through March of 2018.

According to the announcement detailing the indictment, Sponaugle allegedly used funds from the business’s bank account to pay corporate credit card bills associated with those personal purchases and hid her fraud by making false entries in the business’s financial accounting system.



The pressure on banks to modernize their payments capabilities to support initiatives such as ISO 20022 and instant/real time payments has been exacerbated by the emergence of COVID-19 and the compelling need to quickly scale operations due to the rapid growth of contactless payments, and subsequent increase in digitization. Given this new normal, the need for agility and optimization across the payments processing value chain is imperative.