Articles

A Good Impersonator! Who’s your favorite impressionist? Kate McKinnon? Angela Hoover? Jim Meskimen? Impressionists, also known as impersonators or mimics, make us laugh with their uncanny imitation of famous politicians and celebrities. Dana Carvey’s long-ago take on GHW Bush was classic (“start with a little Mr. Rogers and add John Wayne”), and his Jimmy Stewart was brilliant! Some impersonators are not funny, however. They are criminals that impersonate vendors. As IT departments have hardened their perimeters and companies are increasingly alert to internal business email compromise (BEC), sophisticated threat actors have shifted tactics. According to Abnormal Security, a cybersecurity company, by May 2022, 52 percent of all BEC attacks are now external, surpassing internal impersonations. Vendor Email Compromise Internal impersonations are those emails that appear to be from the company CFO or CEO urgently requesting accounts payable to pay a vendor. Those types of “social engineering” attacks, which play on human emotions, are common. But just as likely now, cybercriminals will approach a company externally in the guise of a legitimate vendor. This “financial supply chain compromise” is a subset of BEC. Also called vendor email compromise or VEC, it is often more sophisticated. Criminals work diligently and patiently, first to breach a vendor,...

Pesky Passwords Ask your IT chief about the weakest link in your organization's cybersecurity, and you will receive a quick answer: employees. In cyberspace, passwords guard access to systems, email accounts and websites. Like the speakeasies of old, you need to know the password to get in. But with the ubiquity of password authentication, people suffer password fatigue. People need at least dozens of passwords in both professional and personal lives. The experts say passwords must be long, complex and different. Yet faced with the challenge of remembering them all, many of us succumb to cutting corners. Employees like to use easy-to-remember passwords. (They might even write them down on post-it notes and stick them on their monitor.) Unfortunately, they often use the same password for multiple sites and systems. But an easy password takes hackers less than a second to crack, and if the user employs the same password repeatedly, they compromise each site or system. Here is a statistic to get your attention: 80 percent of cyberattacks target authentication credentials, according to Brad LaPorte at High Tide Advisors. It is the easiest way in. And according to an annual survey by digital security provider NordPass, people still use “12345678” or “Password1” as...

If you have been working in or with accounts payable for very long, you are savvy. You know that crooks look for ways to get some of your organization’s money. It’s not easy to scam you. But what about staff? Do they fully comprehend how fraud is a fact of business life? Anyone working in accounts payable eventually develops a healthy skepticism. People are trying to scam you. But despite our wariness, we are human, subject to getting tired or hurrying instead of being deliberate. Unfortunately, criminals understand this and aided by technology, are relentless in challenging our ability to remain vigilant. For example, which technological tools does your team use to communicate? Those systems may send legitimate administrative emails periodically. Occasionally an administrative email might include a call to action. For example, as a security protocol, some systems require quarterly changes to passwords. Spoofed Legitimacy Here is where you must be on your guard. If one is in a hurry, extremely busy, or tired as the email comes in near the close of business, it’s not the best time to react to the email’s message. Of course, there are legitimate messages from your IT department and your systems. But criminals are also quite...

Failure to Follow Controls It happened again. This time, a county government in New Mexico electronically paid $447,372 in nine different disbursements to a criminal. The alleged fraudster may be a Kenyan, but he wasn’t posing as a prince trying to get a fortune out of the country. Instead, he was a resident of Rochester, NY, who very convincingly took on the identity of one of the NM county’s approved vendors. The fatal flaw for the county was a failure to follow controls. The perpetrator emailed the county, presenting himself as the county’s IT equipment, supplies and software vendor, and requested a change in payment method from check to ACH. What happened next was a textbook violation of internal controls, and it is happening often enough to reward the time and effort put in by criminals. An accounts payable staffer, receiving the change-of-payment-method request via email, thought she was doing the right thing. She verified the request through the vendor contact. The problem was that she contacted the vendor representative listed in the email rather than going to the vendor master file to find the authorized vendor contact. That one failure of discipline led to the re-routed payments. And while the FBI recovered...

The Criticality of Vendor Bank Account Verification In accounts payable, guarding against fraud is like visiting a big city. Scammers are looking for you. New York City is one of the greatest and safest cities in the world. But take a tip from the natives, the guidebooks and even the Metropolitan Museum of Art (see George de La Tour’s painting “The Fortune Teller”)—there are people on the streets trying to separate you from your money. There are ticket scams, unofficial cabs, “cheap” subway MetroCards, the CD or monk scams and the sidewalk three-card monte, in which not only is it impossible for you to win the bet, but someone is probably picking your pocket as you focus on the action. Accounts payable faces a similar array of schemes. Perpetrators can include employees or vendors or phony vendors, and their methods include billing fraud, check fraud, reimbursement fraud, kickbacks  and — ACH fraud. Reportedly 82 percent of organizations report attempted or successful payment fraud. Hence the criticality of internal controls and audits. BEC and Vendor Bank Accounts Hustlers never rest, and with new technologies come new schemes. New schemes demand new controls. For example, criminals now target electronic payments using new and convincing approaches via cyberspace....

Vendor Onboarding Fraud Risk Survey What is the biggest weakness in your vendor registration and onboarding process? Lack of visibility? Lack of internal controls? Manual processes? Lack of sufficient personnel? Threats to Vendor Payments Are Non-stop in 2022 IT security teams are working overtime to protect enterprise systems against relentless attackers. Accounts payable teams must be always vigilant. Security and compliance loom large for procure-to-pay and a fraudster’s entry point might be through a legitimate vendor. Financial Operations Networks is conducting a new benchmark survey on Fraud Risk in Vendor onboarding. Please take two minutes to answer a few questions: Vendor Onboarding Fraud Risk Survey Participants will receive the survey results when complete; results will also be posted here. ...

Appearances and Vendor Payments One of the most iconic scenes in a Hollywood heist movie comes near the end of Ocean’s Eleven. The “team” minus Danny Ocean lean against the balustrade in front of the Bellagio on the Las Vegas strip, quietly gazing at the fountains as Debussy’s beautiful Claire de Lune plays. Then one by one, they depart in different directions. In the highly entertaining film, these guys have just perpetrated a heist of historic proportions for Vegas. The fascinating thing is how they did it. A critical part of the plan was the creation of illusion. Spoiler alert—the team built a replica of the targeted casino vault and filmed it. Then, tapping into the casino’s computer system, they replace the live video feed from the actual vault with the video of the replica vault. Looking at the monitors, the security team thinks all is well in the vault, failing to realize that they are not viewing the actual vault. There are a few other similar sleights of hand that, in the end, enable Ocean and his friends to walk out with millions of dollars under the nose of the casino owner. Illusion and Disillusion in Accounts Payable Fraud Illusion is fun in the...

OFAC Sanctions Russians and Others The Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) list of sanctioned persons and entities has grown since Russia invaded Ukraine. But along with Russian oligarchs and entities, OFAC has also designated others, most notably two key Hizballah financiers operating out of Guinea in West Africa, in compliance with Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, prohibiting transactions with terrorists. OFAC never rests. It adds and sometimes removes persons, entities and countries to sanction lists as necessary per U.S. laws, as in the case of new OFAC sanctions on Russia and others. What does that mean for accounts payable? Simply that you have to keep up. The addition of Ali Saade and Ibrahim Taher of Guinea to the list might slip by unnoticed while the addition of Putin affiliates Alisher Usmanov, Nikolay Tokarev, Yevgeny Prigozhin and others has been in the headlines. However, OFAC's list changes. And while it does so "regularly," it is not on a schedule, and it’s not limited to “headlines!” Companies must regularly check their vendor (and customer) lists against the sanction lists to comply with U.S. law. And that check has to go two ways. First, of course, a company must run new vendors against the...

ACH has steadily grown, while check payments are declining. Seventy-eight percent of organizations use ACH for some vendor payments. And while 82 percent of organizations still make some payments by check, according to a survey by the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP), the volume of checks by businesses has been steadily declining. According to the Federal Reserve, in 2010, the commercial check volume included 7.7 billion items. The volume in 2020 was 3.7 billion items, a decrease of more than 50 percent. The long-predicted but prolonged demise of the check continues, if not apace. Checks gradually are being replaced by electronic payments of various kinds, including ACH. And the replacement rate appears to have jumped in the pandemic. This month NACHA reported that the ACH Network experienced significant growth in 2021, including 5.3 billion B2B payments valued at $50 trillion. That B2B ACH payment figure is a 20.4 percent increase since 2020. According to the AFP survey, more companies accept payment by check than use checks to make payments. AFP posits that this is a positive sign for electronic payments. NACHA also launched Same Day ACH five years ago, and it has grown exponentially since. ACH has become common. What Does This Mean for...

With the pandemic-driven shift to remote work, many organizations moved more check payments to electronic formats, primarily ACH. That has necessitated vendors providing organizations with bank account information. Criminals, of course, go where the money is. And in the hasty shift to more electronic payments and, therefore, more vendors sharing bank account information, many organizations have not managed to include adequate protection of vendor banking information. Despite being parasitic, fraudsters are entrepreneurial and quick to exploit new opportunities afforded by changes in payment practices. But, of course, ACH is not new, so plenty of bad guys were already prepared and waiting for more opportunities to exploit. But what exactly is the problem, and what can organizations do about it? Organizations are not securely handling vendor bank account information. They rely too much on email communication and are not verifying sources or account numbers. The most significant risk connected to electronic payment fraud is when an existing vendor changes its account information, which, on average, is every four years. Vendor bank account changes are a common occurrence across your vendor data. So why is that a problem? Because criminals may get into your email system or one of your vendors' email systems, typically through...

Stop Calls and Emails, Enhance
Service and Increase Profit!

InvoiceInfo saves labor hours and cost by helping suppliers and internal staff easily and instantly get answers online to their invoice-payment questions.

If you are like many finance leaders today, you are being challenged to reduce costs more quickly. InvoiceInfo delivers real bottom-line results almost immediately, allowing you to deploy your customer service staff to focus on more productive, bottom-line oriented tasks.

Let us show you how InvoiceInfo's vendor self-service portal can help your organization eliminate invoice inquiry emails and calls while enhancing service to your accounts payable customers.

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Get Up and Running Quickly and Seamlessly

InvoiceInfo and VendorInfo are standalone applications that can be up and running in as little as two weeks, with little or no IT resources required.

The faster your online portal is up and running, the sooner you will start reaping the benefits. InvoiceInfo and VendorInfo are dedicated solely to helping AP and procurement departments slash the time and expense of servicing vendors, while improving customer service for their suppliers.

InvoiceInfo and VendorInfo are simple solutions with big results. They are easy to implement and easy to use. Here’s how one customer described the process: “You give vendors a URL, provide instructions about what they need to know and tell them to go use it.” It really is that easy.

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Improve Productivity with a Self-Service Solution

For most organizations, deploying a technology solution is a significant investment, and like most investments, the decision point ultimately comes down to the expected return on that investment.

According to a recent benchmark study by The Accounts Payable Network, 60% of AP customer service calls are from vendors while 40% are from internal customers. Vendor issues actually make up even more of the AP call volume than the 60% identified. Many times when a vendor has an issue, the vendor contacts their buyer or purchasing representative, who in turn contacts AP. Even though the call comes from an internal customer, the question originated with the vendor.

Vendor calls affect productivity in your organization exponentially. When vendors call the requisitioner, they are affecting that person’s productivity. Your internal customer’s productivity shrinks when fielding the vendor’s call and again when making the follow up call to AP and getting back to the vendor. Finally, AP’s productivity suffers as a result of the internal customer’s call, the payment status research and the follow-up communication.

With a minimal investment of IT time and talent, you can start reducing customer service calls and expense in a matter of weeks. In addition, you improve vendor relations since you are giving your vendors what they want — answers to their questions immediately — a win-win for everyone involved!

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Easy and Economical Solution to Serve Vendors Around the World

InvoiceInfo can help you provide best-in-class customer service to your vendors around the world at a fraction of the cost.

Many organizations today have offices and operations throughout the world and are dealing with many time zones, different languages, and in some cases multiple ERP systems. InvoiceInfo currently supports different languages and can easily work with multiple ERP systems in different locations.

The key to good customer service is to provide the information that the customer wants when they want it. Whether your customer is a vendor waiting for a payment or a colleague that needs information on payment status, they want their information right away. If your organization has vendors and offices in other countries, they can be challenging and expensive to serve. But, with InvoiceInfo, your international vendors and internal customers can access the information they need when they need it.

With InvoiceInfo, you won’t have to staff your customer service team with 24-hour coverage in multiple languages to provide high-quality customer service around the world.

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Enhance AP’s Role As a Strategic Partner

Learn how InvoiceInfo can help AP do more with less while continuously improving productivity and bottom-line results.

Many automation technologies such as scanning, workflow, e-invoicing, ACH, and electronic invoicing require significant investments of money, time and talent, making it difficult to get buy-in from upper management. Not InvoiceInfo!

If your goal for your AP department is to reduce costs quickly, call or email us today to learn more about how InvoiceInfo can help you achieve this goal through a quick, inexpensive and easy implementation of a vendor self-service portal.

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Enhance Vendor Relationships

InvoiceInfo helps suppliers’ AR departments with simple and convenient access to invoice payment status online at a cost savings for all involved.

It may seem that the organization paying the vendor should hold all the cards in the relationship. But sometimes the opposite is true. Past-due payments and customer service perceptions can harm supplier relationships and disrupt the supply chain.

Your vendors and vendor relationship managers are living in a dynamic, fast-paced environment, so when invoice information is required, it is needed quickly and expected to be of high quality. With InvoiceInfo, your suppliers get answers to invoice inquiries real time, 24/7 with no need to leave messages and wait for responses. Studies show that confidence in data increases when suppliers access invoice and payment information themselves.

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Give Procurement and Buyers the Tool They
Need to Respond to Vendors Quickly

Not only can InvoiceInfo be used by suppliers to learn the status of invoice payments, it can also be used internally within your organization.

In addition to reducing calls from vendors regarding invoice status, you can also reduce internal emails and calls from co-workers wanting to learn the status of invoice payment, and save time and effort and boost efficiency and productivity across the organization. Studies show that 40% of AP customer service calls are from internal customers. Many of these are from requisitioners who have received calls or emails from the supplier checking on payment status. These calls are often more expensive for the company because the internal staff member has taken the call or received an email from the supplier, contacted AP for the payment status and had to return the call or email the supplier.

By providing the vendor with a convenient and credible online option to get the answers it needs regarding payment status, you can eliminate multiple calls/emails between the vendor and the requisitioner saving time and money.

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Eliminate Difficult Vendor Calls and See
Productivity and Staff Morale Soar

Reduce invoice payment inquiries and “promote” your vendor service team to more satisfying and profit-producing tasks.

By sharply reducing inbound calls and emails regarding receipt and payment status that your AP staff must handle individually, your staff can focus their efforts on more productive, cost-saving activities, learn new tasks, feel more confident and boost their careers.

According to a recent American Express survey on customer service, more than one-third of consumers have lost their temper with a customer service professional in the past year. Of those who lost their temper, three in ten “hung up the phone.” Your staff will no longer have to deal with difficult collectors who can be upsetting and disruptive. Your staff will feel that their time and talents are being put to better use and will feel better about themselves, their jobs and their organization. Reducing these calls can be a real productivity and morale booster for your AP department!

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Simplify and Streamline Vendor Onboarding

According to Price Waterhouse Coopers, the average organization spends about $20 in labor to file each paper document, approximately $120 in labor searching for each misfiled document and $220 in re-creation of a document.

Wouldn’t it be great to have all your W-9’s, W-8’s and other registration documents completed online and instantly filed online for easy access when needed? With Vendor Self-Service Onboarding Module, VendorInfo, you can onboard your new vendors in one convenient location and eliminate paperwork and hassles.

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Verify the Accuracy of Vendor Information and Stay in Compliance with IRS and Treasury Department Regulations

Government regulators are increasing the complexity of regulations and penalties associated with vendor-related non-compliance.

Penalties for incorrect 1099’s have more than doubled in recent years. Over the last several years, OFAC has levied more than $1 billion in fines against American companies or subsidiaries that did business with restricted businesses, organizations and individuals on its SDN list. In addition to fining these companies, the Treasury Department posts the names of infringing organizations along with fines paid.

VendorInfo Onboarding Module verifies the accuracy of vendor information and helps protect your organization by avoiding embarrassing penalties and fines.

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