Payments Fraud Not a Result of Remote Working

  • By Mariam Lamech
  • Published: 5/4/2022

Payments_Fraud_Survey_Results_HeaderIn the past two years, the pandemic changed a lot in terms of how we live, travel and, in many cases, the way we work. Globally, organizations mandated that employees work remotely, which required companies to alter many of their processes and procedures. One of the processes impacted was payments. With less face-to-face interaction, employees were in a situation where verifying payment requests or transactions was more challenging, and financial professionals relied on emails and other forms of virtual communication for payments information. Not surprisingly, we should have expected fraudsters to make the most of this situation, targeting employees, who fell victim to their ploys.  

Findings from the 2022 AFP® Payments Fraud Survey suggest that working remotely did not play a significant role in the incidence of payments fraud observed at organizations in 2021. Forty-seven percent of respondents do not believe that remote work is to blame for any increase in payments fraud at their organizations.  Thirty-two percent of respondents believe an increase in payments fraud at their companies is the result of employees working remotely.  

After peaking at over 80% in 2018 and 2019, there has been a gradual decrease in the percentage of organizations being impacted by a payments fraud attack or attempt. While this is a positive sign, we cannot ignore the fact that 71% of organizations were victims of fraud via payment methods in 2021. 

The share of organizations impacted by email fraud also declined, evidence of the extensive efforts made by business leaders to safeguard employees vulnerable in a remote working environment, as well as the success of ramping up training and other validation and verification processes. Sixty-eight percent of organizations were targeted by business email compromise in 2021, eight percentage points lower than in 2020, and the second lowest percentage since AFP began tracking this data in 2015. 

While check usage is on the decline, it is still the payment method most used by organizations, and therefore continues to be the payment method most often targeted by fraudsters to infiltrate organizations. In 2021, two-thirds (66%) of organizations fell prey to check fraud — a result unchanged from the findings in last year’s survey report and, again, lower than the incidence of check fraud observed in prior years. In order to minimize their risk of being exposed to check fraud, treasurers will want to continue to work with their banks and equip themselves with the right tools, e.g., Payee Positive Pay.   

The use of checks is declining in large part due to companies’ migration away from checks to digital payment formats out of necessity at the height of the pandemic — a practice that is also contributing to fewer instances of check fraud. According to the 2019 AFP® Electronic Payments Survey, check usage decreased by nine percentage points from 2016 to 2019.  

While wires were the second-most targeted payment method by fraudsters in past years, in 2021, ACH debits were the second-most popular payment method targeted. This emphasizes how relentless criminals are in their efforts to commit fraud and are constantly seeking areas where they can infiltrate payment systems. This needs to be monitored closely as the concern with fraud via ACH debits is on the rise. Utilizing simple banking tools to mitigate this risk, such as ACH filters and blocks, will help alleviate the concern. More importantly, having a full suite of proper controls in place by reconciling activity on a regular basis, separating duties and having a good banking/vendor partner who fully understands the best practices for preventing this type of fraud is very helpful. As companies move from paper to digital, it’s important for treasury teams to mitigate any potential risk that could occur as a result of the migration. The following actions will help safeguard against any issues that might arise:    


  • Revise policies and procedures for all tender types within the organization
  • Work with A/P to make sure they have all the protections in place for banking tools.
  • Validate procedures with internal audit to gain an independent perspective and detect and address any deficiencies immediately.   
  • Reconcile payments on a daily basis.   
  • Return ACH items within return win
The decline in overall payments fraud may very well be attributed to vigilant financial professionals who are actively implementing strategies that prevent their organizations from being vulnerable targets for payments fraud. It is also likely that the pandemic induced changes in the way operations and processes are being conducted, resulting in the obstruction of fraud activity. Companies sought to patch up deficiencies in their controls, policies and procedures, as well as provide education efforts to equip their staff at being better prepared in detecting risk.  

Upcoming Webinar: The Latest Trends in Payments Fraud - Gain a better understanding of the changing dynamics of Fraud in this companion webinar to the 2022 Payments Fraud Survey, underwritten by J.P. Morgan. Register Here.

Effectively combating payments fraud requires more than just robust internal controls. Financial professionals need to prioritize the negation of payments fraud in their strategies and tactics, think “outside the box,” keep up to date on new technologies (fraud perpetrators certainly do) and be prepared to invest in the measures necessary for successful prevention. After all, the more frequently organizations succumb to these attacks, the more encouraged those fraudsters will be. 

Every year since 2005, the Association for Financial Professionals® (AFP) has conducted its Payments Fraud Survey. The surveys examine the nature of fraud attacks on business-to-business transactions, the payment methods impacted, and the strategies organizations are adopting to protect themselves from those committing payments fraud. Continuing this research, AFP conducted the 18th Annual Payments Fraud and Control Survey in January 2022. The survey generated 552 responses from corporate practitioners from organizations of varying sizes representing a broad range of industries. The survey was underwritten by J.P. Morgan.  


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