B2B Payments

Coronavirus Fraud Is In Full Swing — And Businesses Are A Big Target

Fraud warnings continue to grow louder as bad actors uncover new opportunities to take advantage of market volatility and other aspects of the unique circumstances of the pandemic. For the B2B fraud landscape, the threat is particularly large.

A recent regulatory notice issued by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) warned that “events with such profound impact” like the coronavirus “routinely create opportunities for financial fraud,” with the Business Email Compromise (BEC) a major opportunity for many criminals.

For companies, FINRA urges professionals to monitor for red flags, which may include requests for payments or other activity coming in at unusual times, requests for changes to accounts accepting funds, or unusual language in messages, while also advising businesses to check via phone conversations to confirm any changes or requests are valid.

But the BEC is far from the only strategy fraudsters are deploying today. This week’s B2B Data Digest looks at the numbers behind the latest analysis of fraud activity in small business lending, B2B payments, corporate accounting and more.

2.6 percent economic shrinkage in the U.K. — a best-case scenario estimate — could lead to to more businesses considering false and potentially fraudulent accounting strategies, according to a recent report in Lexology by Bright Line Law. This is particularly true for companies that don’t qualify for government relief programs. “It is easy to sympathize with those who fall behind on their bills and see the option option to remain viable is to commit an offense of false accounting,” the report warned. “Conversely, some might use the pandemic to facilitate criminal activity.”

33 percent more ransomware payments were made by businesses in Q1, new data from Coveware revealed recently. The firm’s report revealed that ransomware attackers took advantage of market volatility as well as corporates’ reliance on remote staff: “Spam attacks related to the outbreak surged and seldom-used ‘work-from-home’ network configurations led to increased ransomware attacks across the board,” Coveware stated, finding that the average ransomware payment made by a company hit $111,605 in Q1 2020.

35 percent of Kaspersky users have been targeted by banking Trojans are corporates, a spike from what Kaspersky described as the “usual” rate of about 25 percent. The cybersecurity firm warned that Russian corporates account for nearly one-third of global users targeted in banking malware attacks, followed by Germany and China, reports in IT Pro Portal said, though Kaspersky stopped short of pointing to the coronavirus as the reason behind this anomaly.

$543,881 in PPP loan funds were allegedly fraudulently applied for by two individuals, according to recently-filed charges by the U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ is accusing two business owners of inflating payroll figures to obtain Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds, and analysts warn that more cases of similar fraudulent activity are likely ahead. In a statement, Brian A. Benczkowski, assistant attorney general with the DOJ’s criminal division, said, “Every dollar stolen from the Paycheck Protection Program comes at the expense of employees and small business owners who are working hard to make it through these difficult times.”

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LIVE PYMNTS ROUNDTABLE: MODERNIZING & SCALING FOR THE NEW NORMAL

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.

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