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AFP Survey: Payments Fraud Increase Attributed to Coronavirus Pandemic

  • By Brooke Ballenger
  • Published: 4/30/2021

As the world began to grapple with working remotely in 2020, the 2021 Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) Payments Fraud and Control Survey, underwritten by J.P. Morgan, revealed that nearly two-thirds of treasury and finance professionals believe the coronavirus pandemic is to blame for some of the uptick in payments fraud at their companies. More than 500 treasury and finance professionals responded to the survey.

The survey also found that business email compromise (BEC) continues to be the primary source for attempted or actual payments fraud, as 62% of companies that experienced attempted or actual payments fraud in 2020 did so as a result of BEC. Although the percentage of companies financially impacted by BEC has been declining, 76% of respondents report that their organizations had been targeted by BEC attempts in 2020.

“While the coronavirus pandemic has certainly impacted how organizations operate, employees must continue to be watchful of fraudulent activity, and they must have access to the training and education needed to detect the same,” said Jim Kaitz, president and CEO of AFP. “Our working environment may have changed, but it is even more crucial to be vigilant now and remember that fraud is still prevalent, whether we are working from the office or not.”

Other highlights of the 2021 AFP Payments Fraud and Control Survey include:

  • In 2020, 74% of organizations were the targets of payment scams. While that is less than the percentages reported in 2018 and 2019, it still indicates that a large percentage of companies continue to be impacted by payments fraud.
  • According to 77% of treasury and finance practitioners, educating employees on the threat of BEC, and training them to identify spear phishing attempts, is an important component in controlling BEC.
  • In 2020, checks and wire transfers continued to be the payment methods most impacted by fraud activity (66% and 39%, respectively). However, the incidence of check fraud activity is declining, and the check fraud activity observed in 2019 is 8% less than last year.

“We’ve seen companies of all sizes and industries shift how they work, manage payments and move money over the last year. With changes in behavior comes more responsibility for everyone involved,” said Sue Dean, head of Product Delivery for J.P. Morgan’s Commercial Banking and Wholesale Payments businesses. “Raising awareness and educating both leaders and employees is critical, as is offering intentional and intuitive digital solutions so companies are equipped to combat and properly protect themselves against fraud.”

Payments is going to be a central topic of AFP 2021, taking place November 7-10 in Washington, D.C. Educational sessions in the Payments track will range from making the use case for faster payments; response, recovery and growth strategies for global A/R teams in 2021; and preparing now to accelerate your business with instant payments. Register for the event here.

Download the full survey results, and don’t miss the companion webinar, Beyond Business Email Compromise (BEC): Where Fraud is Evolving, on May 13. Register here.

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