24th Jul 2023

How to identify suspicious transactions: Screen risk and fraud within your financial operations

If you’re reading this, you’re probably someone who manages finance operations within your company, and if so, you are likely also looking for a way to further secure this process.

Fraud and error cost organisations time and money and may even cause reputational damage. In fact, according to the National Crime Agency, fraud is estimated to cost UK organisations £190 Billion.

Avast’s Q1/2020 Threat report has found invoice fraud is on the rise with the most recent data revealing ‘that the incident rate of invoice and refund scams has risen by as much as 50%’ Fraudsters divert genuine invoices or payment instructions sent by email, often from a familiar supplier or contractor, and send replica emails with the banks’ details changed to an account owned by them. These emails are often so well constructed it’s hard to spot what’s genuine and what’s not. And, staggeringly, these scams specifically make up 55% of all money lost to fraud, according to Barclays.

You can read the full story here.

This type of fraud can be prevented with the correct payment security measures in place: by identifying suspicious transactions and flagging unknown payee’s accounts.


Payment Fraud & Operational Resilience coming into sharp relief

The impact of payment fraud, combined with the need to ensure resilience in the face of economic pressures has led to an increasing regulatory focus on operational resilience, especially within corporate finance. Because of this, it’s critical that organisations optimise internal control mechanisms to help reduce the risk of monetary loss and simplify the path to achieving compliance.

Here at AccessPay, we manage millions of payments for our customers in the format of transfers between their financial systems and the banks. So, we know how important it is to mitigate risk wherever possible.

We also know that automating what are typically manual processes means we are significantly reducing the risk of human error. But even when automated processes are in place, there is still a chance for suspicious transactions to occur.

Our industry-leading payments security feature, Payment Screening, has been specifically designed to flag potential risks and critical errors that may not be obvious to the human eye – before payment files are processed.

What are suspicious transactions?

Suspicious transactions can take many forms and are sometimes almost impossible to detect. Of course, some businesses have learned this the hard way, having only noticed these errors after payments have been processed.

Over the years, we have worked closely with our customers to understand the challenges they have faced in trying to identify suspicious transactions, an effort which has culminated in the development of a tool that enables businesses to avoid future errors and fraudulent attempts.


Examples of suspicious transactions:


Identity theft


In one case, a fraudulent email was sent to the finance team of a large corporation, spoofing (i. e. impersonating) the CEO of the company and demanding that a certain supplier was paid ‘urgently’. The finance team had no payment controls in place, and as a result, ended up paying the supplier. The company had unknowingly paid a fraudulent account thousands of pounds, the money irretrievably gone. The business suffered a huge blow to its overall cash position as a result.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? It’s increasingly harder to spot fraudulent emails, and with many businesses reliant on email as their main form of communication, it’s understandable that this scenario happened.

In fact, a staggering report from PWC found that “46% of surveyed organisations reported experiencing fraud, corruption or other economic crimes in the last 24 months” and in their “Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey 2022 respondents reported total losses of US$42billion, on top of damage to brand, reputation and market share.” [PWC Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey 2022]


Misdirected payment via human error


In another recent case, a finance team dealt with a corrupt payments file in which a supplier account number had been wrongly recorded. The file included random sets of account numbers and unfortunately, one of the random account numbers matched a real account outside of their supplier list. The money was paid out, and again, could not be retrieved.

In both cases, these small errors were hardly noticeable to the human eye and were only uncovered after the payments had been made.

With the Payment Screening feature in place, these payments would have been flagged within AccessPay as high risk before they were processed. Using the “Creditor Unrecognised” rule (one of multiple pre-set rules in the tool), the Payment Screening feature prompts finance teams to double-check payment details before completing a submission.

In both instances, using a tool like Payment Screening would have meant situations like this could have been easily avoided, and ultimately would have saved these businesses not just the cost of erroneous transactions, but also the added stress of having their finance professionals working in crisis mode.


How error and fraud prevention are managed in AccessPay

The premium Payment Screening feature harnesses the power of our automation and AI engine to flag any issues that look suspicious within a company’s payment files.

It uses a set of pre-defined rules which can be customised to build a complete profile of irregular and regular activity for your organisation.

Any irregular activity will be instantly flagged using a red, amber and green traffic light system to indicate any suspicious transactions that need attention before they are processed.


Examples of rules available for Payment Screening, which are fully customisable:


  • Unrecognised creditors
  • Creditors paid more than once within the same file: Referring to duplicated information
  • Creditors paid the same amount more than once within the same file: Similar to the above
  • Thresholds on total transaction count: This will flag potentially large payments that sit outside of expected or normal payment amounts
  • Thresholds on the total transaction amount
  • Thresholds on individual transaction amounts

With ever growing cyber threats, businesses know that reducing risk must be top of the agenda. Leveraging a tool designed to detect issues and alert finance professionals of any irregular activity is now a necessary step to prevent payment fraud and eliminate risk.

As Payment Screening is part of our wider Fraud & Error Prevention Suite, we also offer solutions for Sanctions Screening and Confirmation of Payee.

Read more about the full Fraud and Error Prevention Suite here.

If you want to speak to one of our team around how Payment Screening can work for you, leave you contact details and one of our team will be in touch.

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