Beware! Fraud on the rise as scammers take advantage of COVID-19 fears

BY: Sam Huntington

One unfortunate result of the current environment is an increase in fraud attempts. Scammers prey on our fears and desire for information surrounding the novel coronavirus pandemic. Businesses can be especially susceptible because there are more points of entry into your system (employees) and generally have bigger bank accounts.

In many cases, the window of opportunity to dispute an item is as short as 24 hours, so call your bank immediately if something on your account looks suspicious.

It’s important to take precautions, such as:

  • looking at your bank account every day
  • viewing check images
  • looking at ACH debits carefully
  • being vigilant about email scams

Tips for Avoiding Fraud and Scams

Positive Pay and ACH Filter/Block are services most banks offer to automate the process of looking for unusual activity. Both rely on a system of identifying transactions that were not pre-authorized and giving the account holder an opportunity to verify items presented for payment before they are run through your account. Talk to one of SBCP’s Treasury Management experts for more information on setting up these services for your business account.

Unfortunately, the most common entry for fraud is still your email system. Take extra care to educate and remind employees about fraudulent emails that are designed to have the recipient open an attachment or click on a link, resulting in malware invisibly downloading to the user’s computer system. Right now, millions of COVOD-19 emails are being sent, such as:

  • emails with a realistic looking UPS package tracking information
  • fake emails from the HR department about allowed sick leave under coronavirus
  • emails with the subject line referencing employee layoffs
  • fraudulent emails using names from people within the organization
Some things your employees can do to help identify scams include:

  • Double check the sender’s actual email address (not just name in the FROM area) to verify the sender. Oftentimes, a scam will appear to come from a specific employee, but the actual email address is clearly different.
  • Establish a company-wide safe word for clicking on links. Employees should not click on a link or open an attachment without that safe word in the subject or body of the email.
  • If in doubt, access information through your typical channels. For instance, log into your intranet for news rather than click on a link. Get to your credit card or bank information through their website versus an email link, etc.
With many people working at home and doing double duty with childcare or other distractions, there is an increased possibility of people clicking through emails. It’s just a game of numbers. If scammers can get one or two people out of a 1,000 to download malware, it can be worth their time.

Improve Your Credit Card Security

Credit cards are another common target for fraud. Business credit cards pose an increased threat since your accounts payable department may not realize a charge is suspicious right away since someone else (an employee) is using the card.

Encourage employees to keep an eye on credit card statements and learn how to check their credit card accounts online to potentially catch fraudulent charges as soon as possible. Make sure your credit card information is up-to-date and consider setting up automatic payments and electronic billing to reduce the chance of mail fraud.

Protect Yourself and Your Business
It’s important to protect your business from fraud during this already chaotic time. If you have any questions about setting up or using account protections through State Bank of Cross Plains, contact your business banker or reach out to our Treasury Management department at (855) 256-7328.

Sam Huntington

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