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Commerce brand circles

Account takeover fraud attacks: what they are and how to avoid them

According to the most recent AFP Payments Fraud and Control Survey, 2019 showed a slight decline in Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks with 75% of organizations reporting that they were a target of a BEC scam (down from 78% in 2018). Despite the decline, BEC scams continue to be a massive threat to treasury departments. Symantec, a cyber security organization, reported that BEC attacks have targeted more than 30,700 organizations in the first quarter of 2020, prompting the FBI to issue a warning for companies around the nation.

Fraudsters appear to be exploiting disruptions in business operations caused by the coronavirus outbreak to perpetrate new variations on the scam, including hijacking Paycheck Protection Program loans to small businesses.

Account takeover (ATO) attacks are also expected to increase as a result of the pandemic. ATO attacks are a result of fraudsters compromising sensitive online account information (such as login credentials) to impersonate business consumers. These types of attacks often involve email phishing attempts to compromise customer data. Once a customer clicks a fraudulent URL, fraudsters take over the account by changing the account password, recipient email address and phone number to deny access and remove communication channels to the legitimate account holders. Having gained total control of a compromised account, fraudsters can make fraudulent purchases using the customer’s personal or business card on file, redeem credit card loyalty points, buy gift cards, and leverage other personal identifiable information to compromise other accounts. Due to purchases appearing to come from legitimate customers, banks and credit card providers may not be immediately aware of the incurred damages.

Here are a few tips to help mitigate the risk of fraud while your workforce continues to operate remotely:

  • Ensure employees are not performing work tasks on personal devices. Devices not monitored by your company’s IT security department may be at risk of malware infections.

  • Emphasize the importance of being vigilant for Business Email Compromise and email phishing scams. Fraudsters are aware of, and looking to exploit, the current operating environment many businesses are facing. View additional fraud prevention tips here.

  • Stay up to date with the latest security firmware updates provided by your organization’s IT department. Have employees verify that laptops are receiving automatic updates outside of your company’s network or physical location.

  • Remind employees to avoid installing new computer hardware components (keyboards, mice, and printers) on work computers without verifying the device with your IT department. While online marketplaces are host to thousands of trustworthy hardware dealers, disreputable manufactures could be selling malware-invested devices at a cheaper price to infect the PCs of unsuspecting customers.

  • Advise employees to carefully analyze URLs by hovering over a link to view the web address before clicking. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of trending topics, such as the Coronavirus, by using phony URLs to prey on consumers using fear and urgency tactics.

  • Instruct employees to verify the security of personal Wi-Fi access information. It is imperative that home networks are password protected. Internet service providers can provide additional information about Wi-Fi security options.

  • As multiple family members may also be at home while your employees work remotely, confirm that they are also avoiding malicious websites that could compromise home networks.

Most scams can be avoided by remaining vigilant to emerging threats, following best practices, and maintaining your business’s cybersecurity standards even when working remotely.