Survey: Pandemic Leads to Increase in Payments Fraud Activity

Nearly two-thirds of treasury and finance professionals who have seen an increase in payments fraud activity at their organizations believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is to blame for at least some of the uptick, according to the 2021 Payments Fraud and Control Survey from the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP).

In other feedback from the more than 500 treasury and finance professionals who responded to the AFP survey, business email compromise (BEC) continues to be the most common source of fraud attempts, with 62% of survey participants having experienced this brand of attempted or actual payments fraud in 2020. 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, most prevalently in the accounts payable area.

Elsewhere in the survey, 74% of organizations reported having been targets of payment scams in 2020, with checks and wire transfers continuing to be the payment methods most impacted by fraud activity (at 66% and 39%, respectively). To combat attempted fraud, 77% of respondents believe educating employees on the threat of BEC and training them to identify spear phishing attempts are the most effective means of mitigating the threat.

“While the COVID-19 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,” says AFP president and CEO Jim Kaitz. “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.”