Mail-related check fraud has been rising since last August, according to the Evidence-Based Cybersecurity Research Group at Georgia State University, which has been tracking the trend. It warns that criminals have a pretty easy time when it comes to getting their hands on your checks. In KPMG’s survey of senior risk executives, 67% say their companies have experienced external fraud in the past 12 months, and 38% expect the risk of fraud committed by external perpetrators to somewhat increase in the next year.
“Some of them simply go to your home mailbox and take the mail you left for the post office to pick up,” said David Maimon, an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Georgia State University and Director of the Evidence-Based Cybersecurity Research Group.
“Others simply go to the blue boxes with the keys that they were able to steal from some of the mailmen out there, empty the boxes, and get the checks that some of us send. That’s how easy it is.”
The cybersecurity group found an average of 1,325 stolen checks up for sale every week during October 2021. This was more than double what it saw in September when the average was 634 a week and triple the 409 average in August 2021. More recent numbers indicate an even greater rate of incidents.
M3, the hospitality sectors #1 Reporting & Accounting Software, is hearing from more and more customers that are experiencing check fraud that ranges from checks being replicated or physically altered somewhere between when the check is issued, mailed, received, or redirected.
The company’s goal is to minimize the potential of hospitality companies becoming a victim of check fraud, and has recommended the steps below be taken in order to mitigate the risk of check fraud.
- Implement Positive Pay with Name Verification. Positive Pay is a banking feature designed to help business owners protect themselves against fraudulent checks being written on their account. Once you give your bank details for each check you write, the bank verifies that your information matches the information on checks presented to the bank before it processes the payment. If any items don’t match up, your bank flags them and sends them to you for review. You can then decide if you want to accept or decline the payment.
- Implement an ePay system, which incorporates ACH and Virtual Credit Card (VCC) technology. ePay systems provide added security against fraudulent activities; especially when checks are eliminated and is easy to set-up and easy to use. It also adds efficiencies to your reconciliation process. In addition, ePay improves overall employee accountability.
- Complete Your Bank Reconciliations DAILY. Merely checking for similar numbers on the general ledger and bank statements is not good enough and is not offering the most protection against fraud. If you are only reconciling weekly or monthly, the horse may be out of the barn by the time irregularities or fraud is identified. Daily bank reconciliation allows you to nip bank errors in the bud as early as possible, leads to fewer issues and fewer errors, avoids working with outdated information, and helps track daily cash flow providing you the insight you need into the cash flow and spending habits of the property or corporate entity. If you are not reconciling daily, your books may not always equal reality.
We are living in a world where, unfortunately, fraud is common and increasing at an alarming rate. Be sure you protect yourself and your company.