A Deep Dive Into Wire Fraud and Business Email Compromise

Consumers demand for fast and convenient payments channels has increased opportunities for fraudsters to target financial institutions and their customers.

With wire fraud and business email compromise (BEC) attacks increasing, it is critical that banks remain vigilant to prevent fraud losses and reputational risks. We are sharing unparalleled data-driven insights into the current fraud landscape that we uncovered through the Verafin Cloud, with a deep dive into wire fraud and BEC. The Verafin Cloud contains an immense set of anonymized data from over 3,000 financial institutions, comprising $4 trillion in assets. Importing core, ancillary, open-source, third-party and consortium data, and analyzing over a billion transactions a week in the Verafin Cloud, we can accurately identify emerging fraud trends and create a substantial set of labeled fraud data to train machine learning analytics for fraud detection.

The Main Target for Wire Fraud
Criminals are constantly searching for weaknesses in banks’ wire fraud controls and will shift tactics to target points of least resistance – often your own customers. Criminals have refocused their efforts to leverage your customers as an attack vector, targeting them with known fraud scams. Statistics from the Verafin Cloud show that nearly three-quarters (74%) of all wire fraud cases targeted individuals, with elderly persons accounting for 63% of all people victimized by wire fraud.

BEC Behind Majority of Loss
While individuals were more frequently targeted by wire fraudsters, data in the Verafin Cloud shows that businesses sustained 73% of all financial losses to date, driven largely by BEC schemes. While most BEC attempts in our analysis involved wire transactions, 24% of BEC occurrences involved ACH transfers, demonstrating this channel is not immune to attack. A high value, high speed, and widespread scheme, BEC has become the No. 1 reported crime to the FBI, and is an ever-increasing threat to all banks.

Payee Risk Analysis
At many banks, a wire sent to a first-time beneficiary is automatically considered high risk. This assumption creates undue friction for your customers, as well as massive alert volumes — especially when a large proportion of wires from banks are destined for new recipients. This figure was substantial in our data: 23% of wire transfers were directed towards new payees for a customer. Banks should consider technology that provides visibility into the transaction counterparty in real time to ascertain whether a wire recipient is truly suspicious or has a trusted history of activity at other institutions.

A Step Ahead
Wire fraud is a growing threat for financial institutions. As fraud schemes evolve and become more sophisticated, wire transfers —which can be high value and irrevocable — are the perfect target for fraudsters. As criminals increasingly target your customers with a variety of fraud scams and schemes, banks must remain vigilant and ensure that holistic fraud detection and management solutions are in place to prevent loss and stay a step ahead of financial crime.