Payments fraudsters spy Covid-19 opportunity in strained supply chains
With staff working from home and use of digital signatures not yet ubiquitous, banks need to step up security measures to prevent opportunistic criminals profiting from the disruption caused by coronavirus.
In March, Interpol revealed details of a criminal scheme involving compromised emails, advance-payment fraud and money laundering across Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands.
The case involved two sales companies in Zurich and Hamburg, contracted by German health authorities to procure face masks, that were duped into making payments to what they thought was a legitimate supplier.
The fraud amounted to €2.3 million. Fortunately, the funds were traced before they could be disbursed, but Interpol’s general secretary noted how the fraudsters had adapted their sales pitches to take advantage of strained supply chains following lockdown.
It seems to be part of a trend.
Raiffeisen Bank International’s (RBI) head of trade finance Martina Zimmerl has seen a slight increase in financial crime and a higher level of preliminary injunctions since the start of the pandemic, although whether this is fraud- or credit risk-related will only become clear when inspectors have assessed each case.
“We have also seen increased instances of non-clients approaching us for the financing of medical supplies from China to Europe on a pre-payment basis,” she says.