B2B Payments

Email Fraudsters Take Advantage Of Coronavirus Opportunity

Even in times of global crisis, fraudsters will always look for ways to exploit unsuspecting targets. Corporates and government officials have recently been sounding the alarm about coronavirus-related scams, and according to experts, the threat is likely to rise.

“This is a moment that a lot of hackers across the world have been preparing for,” said Brian Finch, partner at Pillsbury law firm and co-leader of the company’s coronavirus response team, in are recent Compliance Week report. “This is an opportunity to conduct pretty robust cyber-espionage, if not cyber-hostage taking. We are already seeing a spike in cyberattacks, including on remote connection services.”

Officials are warning of a rise in phishing attacks, while retailers have also been warned about fraud risks, with Amazon recently removing 1 million products for allegedly making fraudulent claims, recent Forbes reports said.

It’s too soon to tell how the coronavirus crisis will impact corporates’ financial and payment operations, but while analysts continue to raise the alert about consumer payments fraud, the risk of B2B payments fraud persists, particularly as more employees work from home.

“Another side effect of the Coronavirus is increased teleworking, which furthers the reliance on email for communication adding yet another multiplier to these email fraud schemes,” the U.S. Secret Service Department of Homeland Security wrote in a warning published earlier this month.

Below, PYMNTS looks at some of the latest data points around the fraud threat.

Six years of alleged fraud saw one payroll firm accused of stealing millions of dollars, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. Payroll Professionals Inc. has been accused by federal prosecutors of “one of the most extreme abuses of trust,” allegedly stealing from small businesses, corporates and nonprofits between 2009 and 2015 in the Philadelphia area. Reports said business users of the payroll software had funds taken out for tax purposes, but the IRS insists these firms have millions of dollars in unpaid tax bills and penalties. Payroll Professionals Inc owner Myles Hannigan is serving a four-year sentence after pleading guilty to tax fraud, reports noted.

37 percent of finance professionals say their firms foster an environment for fraud, a new survey from Compleat Software has revealed. The report surveyed U.K. finance professionals that have revealed doubts over whether their organizations are positioning themselves to be more at risk for fraud: 20 percent of respondents agreed their payment and procurement processes place their companies at risk for fraud.

$20.42 million in estimated refunds were paid by U.K. bank TSB to fraud victims, recent Financial Times reports said, with the figure emerging after TSB’s first year of committing to reimburse victims of bank payments fraud via its “fraud refund guarantee” program. The financial institution (FI) vowed last April to refund all victims of authorized push payment fraud, which often occurs after individuals are tricked via calls, texts and emails posing as legitimate bank staff. It’s unclear whether small businesses are eligible for the reimbursement program, though the scam is commonly found targeting small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and corporates via business email compromise schemes and other fraudulent tactics.

$2.1 billion in losses were reported to the FBI as a result of hackers targeting Microsoft Office 365 and Google G suite in a slew of business email compromise attacks, Bleeping Computer reported earlier this month. The attacks that target workforce platforms reflects fraudsters' shift to cloud email services as businesses themselves migrate away from on-premise email systems, the publication noted, with the FBI warning that fraudsters are infiltrating these email portals to better mimic legitimate employees to conduct their scams.



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.