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Beware of Fraud in the Age of COVID-19

By Roxanne Chance-Chin, BSA Officer & Fraud Investigations Manager

Government agencies including the FBI are reporting a rise in fraud attempts correlated with COVID-19. Although many fraud attempts at the beginning of the pandemic targeted individuals, the financial community warns that fraudsters are setting their sights on businesses. The Bank of Tampa recommends business owners take the time to understand the full scope of the recent rise in fraud, so they can properly protect their businesses. The most common scheme reported in the age of COVID-19 affecting businesses is Business Email Compromise (BEC).

Business Email Compromise

BEC is a phishing scheme in which fraudsters spoof a business partner’s email address or account, pose as the trusted client or vendor, and ask the business to redirect payments to a new or different account number via ACH or wire transfer. If the employee does not recognize this as a fraudulent request or does not perform validation steps, fraud may ensue and the entity could be out thousands of dollars. By the time the company realizes that fraud has occurred, the fraudster has already illegally transferred the funds and shut down the false account, leaving the business with no means of recouping the lost funds.

What can you do to prevent fraud?

Fortunately, there are actions you can take to protect your business from fraud attempts. While there is no “silver bullet” to protect against all fraudulent activity, The Bank of Tampa encourages businesses to implement protocols and verification processes aimed at discovering fraud attempts early and stopping them before they occur. More specifically, to avoid BEC scams, The Bank of Tampa recommends that businesses scrutinize emails closely and confirm payment details by calling a known telephone number before submitting a wire request to a financial institution. Businesses should be especially wary of any email directing payment to a new account number or offshore account.

If you believe your business has been a victim of fraud, notify your financial institution and local law enforcement immediately. The Bank of Tampa fraud team would be happy to discuss the best fraud prevention practices with you. Please contact our Client Service Center at (813) 872-1200, and we would be happy to connect you with our team of security experts.

The Bank of Tampa | Member FDIC