As you’ve likely heard, payments fraud has been a top concern during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) Payments Fraud and Control Survey underwritten by J.P. Morgan notes that “65% of treasury and finance professionals believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is to blame for some of the uptick in payments fraud at their companies.”
We know there has been a boom in ACH (Automated Clearing House) as the pandemic creates more remote working environments, forcing many companies to shift to electronic payments. With that change, businesses are sharing their routing and account numbers more than ever before. They are also making more electronic payments, sometimes encountering sophisticated criminal schemes with disastrous results.
According to the AFP study mentioned above, “In 2020, check and wire transfers continued to be the payment methods most impacted by fraud activity.” So how can you protect your business? No single security method can prevent all payments fraud, but this blog offers two suggestions that you can incorporate into a multi-layered approach to security.
What is Positive Pay?
Positive Pay is a service offered by financial institutions that requires verification of check number, check value and issue date before a check is processed. To do so, a business or organization electronically shares a list of all checks written with the bank via a file upload. Some banks may support integration through your check printing software for the check upload.
The bank verifies checks it receives against this list and clears only those checks that appear in the register. If the check number and amount do not match the information on file, payment on the check is stopped. Criminals who try to copy or alter a check will have no idea that it is “equipped” with Positive Pay.
Implementing Positive Pay demonstrates to your bank that you are doing your due diligence to prevent fraud and protect your account.
Not just for checks
Positive Pay for ACH is also offered by many banks. Companies that use ACH Positive Pay create a set of rules that govern which companies or entities can initiate transactions against an account. You will also set up various email notifications, including notice of unauthorized transactions. This enables you to quickly respond in order to approve or deny a payment.
Easy to use
Zack Bibaud, Assistant Vice President, Cash Management at BankProv reports, “Positive Pay alerts the user when potentially fraudulent checks post (or when any check posts) and gives them a window of time to review and return, if necessary. I can’t speak to all Positive Pay systems (ours is very user-friendly and intuitive), but in general, if the customer is using the system properly – uploading their issued checks before they are sent to payees and maintaining their list of authorized ACH companies – the daily work is very minimal, typically only a minute or two, and the only transactions that get flagged for review are truly fraudulent or unauthorized.”
Our story: how Positive Pay helps RELYCO
For RELYCO, Positive Pay plays a large role in our multi-faceted approach to security. Having Positive Pay in place allows for a sense of reassurance and control over check and ACH fraud that we otherwise wouldn’t have. We can react quickly and avoid the reactive actions we would have to take to resolve a fraudulent transaction if it were to be processed.
According to Trish Murdoch, our Accounting Manager, “We have a series of protocols and notifications regarding transactions hitting the account(s). We review a list daily of posted transactions approving or denying them. We visually review each check for signs of tampering, and verify payee, name and amount. Positive Pay really empowers me to be able to catch things because it is not pleasant to experience a fraudulent transaction.”
Being on top of our accounts has really helped us, and Bibaud’s description of how easy Positive Pay is to use aligns with our own experience. We’ve found that diligence is the key. Positive Pay is just one piece of a larger accounting picture, while high-quality checks with many security features are another.
Benefits of physical security checks
Physical security check features include options, such as warning bands, copy-void pantographs and chemical reactivity, that may be “built in” to your check stock.
A thief who tries to alter or duplicate a check that has embedded security features will have a much more difficult time than they would with a non-secure check.
For this reason, experienced thieves will often leave such secure checks alone, targeting those that are more vulnerable due to a lack of security features.
Fraudsters will often take the path of least resistance
Like we said earlier, having a Positive Pay program in place will not be obvious to criminals, but using check stock with visible security features will be. All RELYCO stock laser checks are designed with security features that prevent tampering and forgery to ensure a secure financial transaction.
So which is best?
That’s a trick question. The answer is both! When it comes to preventing check fraud, having multiple layers of security is the best practice. One method alone is not enough.