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Balancing Act: The changing landscape of commercial banking

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Technology has changed the way people do business. It’s also changed the way they do business banking. You can transfer money between two business accounts in minutes with online banking or complete and submit your entire expense report on the computer. Technology gives you the convenience of having greater control over your company’s finances. But that shouldn’t change the business partnership you have with your company’s bank.

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Like any relationship, creating and maintaining an effective partnership requires regular communication between you and your bank partner.  A strong relationship with your company’s financial institution not only enhances your customer experience, but also helps the bank balance quality service with a high level of information security.

Customer Experience

Your banker should know your company beyond what can be learned from a monthly commercial credit card statement. Your bank should act as an extension of your business and not just a place for you to keep your corporate accounts. Understanding the business cycles and unique financial needs of your engineering firm or your agriculture business gives your bank the insight to be a partner working with you on developing ideas to help your business succeed. This experience begins with a simple but powerful idea: know your customer.

For example, a bank that uses “know your customer” requirements for you to access your account can take this information and use it as a chance to get to know you and your employees better. At UMB, we require you to provide information that will uniquely identify you as the customer you say you are when you call us. These precautions are also good security measures to reduce potential fraud on your accounts.

Information Security

Having a strong relationship with your bank is important to your information security. Most banks will monitor spending habits to check for fraudulent activity on your commercial cards. For example, if a commercial card for a construction company starts posting a series of expensive charges at a department store within several hours, UMB might flag that account for suspicious activity or even put a hold on the card to stop any further transactions. Some might see this as too constrictive and even intrusive, but if you have a good working relationship with your financial institution you’re more likely to view this type of monitoring as a partner looking out for your company’s financial well-being.

So what can you do as a customer to keep the two-way communication open? Keeping your profile with your bank up-to-date makes it easier to verify who you are when you need to contact them. This also helps your bank ensure an accurate and safe customer experience.

Balancing self-service, customer service and information security is a challenge. A good bank should maintain the fine line between giving you the freedom to run your business and manage your finances, while remaining a loyal business partner who will always looks out for your best interests and the financial safety of your company.


Mr. Wegner is vice president and commercial card product manager at UMB. In this role, he is responsible for product development and program design for new and existing programs. He joined UMB in 2011. He earned an MBA in Management from Rockhurst University in Kansas City MO. He is a member of the NAPCP Public Sector Advisory Board.



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Internal Fraud: How to protect your company

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You don’t want to believe it. But the numbers just aren’t adding up. You want to trust the people who work for you, but eventually you have to come to terms with the fact that someone in your company is stealing money. Not only does it hurt your business, but it’s often a heartbreaking realization for you as a manager or owner.

It’s not always easy to figure out who is the culprit, but there are steps you can take to detect and hopefully prevent fraud within your company.

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Dual control and separation of duties

Understand who is in charge of what financial responsibilities and make sure there are no gaps. Create a system of checks and balances so that the same person who is running payables (bills, invoices, expense reports) isn’t the same person who is reconciling the accounts (balancing the company checkbook, so to speak).

It’s also a good idea for business owners to review financial statements on a weekly or monthly basis.

Automated fraud detection

Consider implementing Positive Pay. This automated fraud detection tool is offered by most banks. It’s a relatively simple process. Your company issues checks every month and you send the bank a list of all those checks, including check numbers, amounts and payees. The bank makes sure the checks match up as each one clears. This eliminates any fraudulent or altered checks. Automated fraud detection is a great solution for companies as long as they already have dual controls in place.

Anonymous tip line

Businesses should also consider setting up an anonymous fraud tip line. Internal fraud is most often detected by a tip from another associate. As a business owner or manager, you can’t know everything that’s going on in your company. Giving your associates an anonymous way to notify you is a simple, effective way to detect internal fraud.

Other processes and procedures to consider:

  • Reputable third-party audits
  • Periodic reviews of policies, procedures and controls
  • Diversity of associates’ job functions, including rotation of job duties at times
  • Periodic spot checks of your account payables/receivables, payroll, etc.

Don’t think it will happen to you? Keep this in mind. 61 percent of financial professionals reported that their organization experienced attempted or actual payments fraud in 2012. And 26 percent of fraud is committed by an organization’s own associates (Source: Association for Financial Professionals). Even though you want to assume the best from your associates, you should have systems in place to ensure that you don’t become another internal fraud statistic.

 

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


Mr. Bibens is a treasury management officer for UMB’s Commercial Deposits department. He is responsible for providing consultative technology and cash flow management solutions to companies and public entities throughout the Greater Missouri area. He joined UMB in 2010 and has 10 years of experience in the financial services industry.



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10 financial safety tips for vacation

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Most people think summer is the only time to take a vacation. But a lot of people take vacations in the fall and winter when flights and hotels are less expensive and tourist destinations aren’t as crowded.

A vacation is a great time for relaxation and spending time with family and friends. The last thing you want is to stress about fraud and have your vacation ruined because of a lost or stolen credit card. You can usually avoid this headache if you take a few extra steps when preparing for a trip or are more aware of your surroundings. Here are few tips to help prevent you from becoming a victim of fraud on vacation.

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  1. Protect cards as if they are cash. Do not leave them unattended anywhere, such as in a car, restaurant or even at the pool. If you are traveling, your cards should be with you at all times. Or you can put them in a secure location like a hotel safe.
  2. Never write down a personal identification number (PIN) – memorize it. Also, designate unique PINs for each card, and use random number, letter and symbol combinations when possible. Do not use easy to crack codes, such as a birth date, which could easily be found in your wallet.
  3. Don’t leave credit cards in your car’s glove compartment. An alarmingly high amount of all credit card thefts are from this area.
  4. Always check to make sure cards are returned when used at a store or restaurant. It’s easy to forget cards, especially when you’re on vacation. And it’s easy for servers or sales people to return the wrong card when they’re in a hurry.
  5. Don’t carelessly discard or leave documents that contain personal information in the open – including account numbers – such as car rental agreements or airline tickets.
  6. Do not give account numbers over the phone unless you have initiated the call. Most companies will only ask you to verify a portion of your personal information.
  7. Always take receipts and destroy any extra copies.
  8. If you travel overseas, let your card provider know about your plans to travel to a foreign country. There may be restrictions on using cards in some countries and a provider will be less likely to question the foreign transactions if prior notice is given.
  9. If you decide to shop online on vacation or need to update flight or hotel reservations online, be mindful of the websites you visit and what information you share. Always purchase from websites that start with https because this means it is a secure site. Also, be mindful when using public Wi-Fi networks. Internet connections that require a password are the safest. You don’t want that new eBook you ordered online costing you half your bank account.
  10. Most fraudulent use of cards takes place within a few days of their being lost or stolen. If your card is lost or stolen on vacation, immediately report it to the issuing bank or financial institution.

Mr. Rine serves as president of the Kansas City region and is responsible for managing the Kansas City commercial banking teams and partnering with other bank line of business leaders to implement the strategic plan for Kansas City. He is a member of the UMB Financial Services Board of Directors and the advisory director for UMB Bank, n.a. He joined UMB in 1994. Rine earned a Bachelor of Science from the Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo.



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Internal fraud: Who they are and why they do it

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He looks like a typical associate. She could be a 20-something or a person in her fifties. He could be the person you eat lunch with every day. The truth is that you can’t pick out this person from the crowd. She is committing internal fraud in your company and doesn’t look any different from the rest of your co-workers. He makes sure he blends in.

So what should you look for if you suspect one of your associates is committing fraud?

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What to look for

  • A disgruntled associate who is vocal about their unhappiness with the company. They often use this as an excuse to commit fraud.
  • An overly enthusiastic associate who consistently ask questions about processes and procedures that will help them steal from the company.
  • A seemingly harmless associate with no apparent agenda. Their behavior won’t be as easy to spot as the first two. Having audits and checks/balances in place will likely help you catch them.

How they do it

These are not always tell-tale signs of fraud, but those who commit internal fraud are likely to:

  • Always be willing to take on additional tasks that could lead to fraud and have nothing to do with their current duties.
  • Learn as much as they can about company systems to use in conducting fraud. Systems can include but aren’t limited to: accounting, accounts payable/receivable, payroll, bank account access. They will look for weaknesses in policies or procedures.
  • Earn management’s trust with regard to the most vulnerable parts of the company.

Once they gather the necessary information and gain the trust of the company leaders, they will begin their plan. This could be creating “ghost” associates in payroll or diverting funds to a new account for a fake vendor. Sometimes it’s as simple as stealing money directly or even selling confidential company information on the internet.

Why they do it

The best example of why an associate will commit fraud is described by Dr. Donald Cressey as the Fraud Triangle Model, a tool for assessing the risk of fraud. Cressey was a criminologist who studied embezzlers.

Fraud Triangle

  • Pressure is often financial and usually stems from addiction, living beyond one’s means, major medical expenses, or gambling losses.
  • Rationalization is the explanation why the theft is not really wrong. Some associates tell themselves that it’s a loan and will be repaid. Others feel they are not paid enough and deserve more.
  • Opportunity is the opinion that a fraud can be committed without being caught. The thief sees poor internal controls, poor supervision, poor “tone at the top,” or a combination of these.

One of the best ways to avoid internal fraud is to set up regular, thorough audits and reviews of processes in your company. Stay tuned for an upcoming post that will go into more detail about how to catch internal fraud before it does serious damage to your business.


Dennis Knop is a vice president and corporate fraud investigator of UMB Bank, n.a. He has worked for UMB for 18 years, and 12 years of that in fraud investigation. He has a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Mr. Knop is a Certified Fraud Examiner and currently serves as the treasurer of the Midwest Financial Fraud Investigators Group in St. Louis, Mo.



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