NGA

NGA Insight2Grow

Top 5 Financial Crime Risks This Holiday Season

by Kyle Stroombergen – General Manager of NGA

With over two decades of experience in fraud detection and financial crime prevention, our team at NGA offers unparalleled expertise in navigating the complexities of these criminal activities, particularly during the holiday season. This period, characterized by increased spending and financial transactions, presents unique vulnerabilities that criminals often exploit.

In this article, we aim to provide some key insights into the common risks associated with financial crimes during the holidays and offer strategic recommendations for businesses to safeguard themselves.

What Are the Top 5 Financial Crime Risks During the Holiday Season?

Addressing each of the highlighted risks with tailored solutions, while emphasizing the discernment between normal holiday activities and criminal actions, and managing false positives, is crucial for effective financial crime prevention:

1. Surge in Transaction Volume:

The holiday season’s high transaction volume provides an ideal cover for criminals to mix illicit funds with legitimate ones. This surge makes it challenging to discern between normal and fraudulent activities, requiring advanced monitoring to detect anomalies amidst the seasonal spike in financial transactions.

2. Changing Customer Demographics:

The holiday season attracts a diverse range of customers, allowing criminals to blend in more easily. This diversity alters the baseline for normal customer behavior, making it harder for businesses to spot irregularities and suspicious activities.

3. Utilization of Sophisticated Payment Methods:

Criminals increasingly use digital currencies and online payment methods, which offer anonymity and cross-border capabilities, complicating fund tracking. During the holidays, these methods become more prevalent, further obscuring the distinction between legitimate and suspicious transactions.

4. Identity Theft and Fraud Risks:

The holidays are a prime time for identity theft, which can be a precursor to money laundering activities. Criminals may use stolen identities to create accounts or conduct transactions that appear legitimate.

5. Operational Distractions:

The festive rush can lead to oversight in businesses, as employees dealing with increased workloads may miss critical red flags. This lack of vigilance provides an opportunity for criminals to execute financial crimes without detection, despite regular training and automated systems.

How Can Businesses Proactively Counteract these Risks?

Here are some effective strategies and actionable measures that organizations can adopt to proactively combat financial crime risks. From enhancing transaction monitoring to collaborating with law enforcement, these recommendations are designed to empower businesses with the tools and knowledge needed to maintain integrity and security in the face of potential financial threats during the holiday season.

1. Surge in Transaction Volume:

  • Advanced Analytics and Machine Learning: Implement machine learning algorithms that adapt to changing transaction patterns during the holiday season, helping to identify unusual activities that deviate from predicted trends.
  • Segmented Thresholds: Adjust thresholds for transaction monitoring to account for the expected increase in volume, reducing false positives while remaining alert to anomalies.
  • Behavioral Analysis: Employ behavioral analysis to understand customer spending patterns, distinguishing between typical holiday shopping behaviors and potential criminal activities.
  • Real-Time Monitoring: Utilize real-time transaction monitoring to quickly identify and investigate suspicious transactions as they occur.
  • Contextual Data Integration: Incorporate additional contextual data, such as location and customer profiles, to enhance the accuracy of transaction monitoring systems.

2. Changing Customer Demographics:

  • Dynamic Customer Profiling: Develop dynamic customer profiles that adjust to seasonal changes, helping to identify deviations from typical behaviors.
  • Cultural and Seasonal Awareness Training: Train staff to be aware of cultural and seasonal factors that may influence customer behavior during the holidays.
  • Enhanced Customer Due Diligence: Apply enhanced due diligence measures, especially for new or infrequent customers. Incorporating intelligent PEP, sanctions, and adverse media screening software is crucial. This software should adeptly differentiate between legitimate high-profile individuals and potential risks, efficiently managing false positives to minimize disruptions in customer relations and business operations.
  • Geographical Analysis: Analyze transaction locations to identify patterns inconsistent with expected holiday shopping behaviors.

3. Utilization of Sophisticated Payment Methods:

  • Cross-Platform Analysis: Perform cross-platform analysis to track fund movements across different payment methods and identify potential laundering activities.
  • Customer Education: Educate customers on secure online transaction practices to reduce the risk of them unknowingly facilitating financial crimes.
  • Integration of AI for Pattern Recognition: Leverage artificial intelligence to recognize complex patterns and relationships in payment data that might indicate illicit activities.

4. Identity Theft and Fraud Risks:

  • Advanced Identity Verification Systems: Implement robust identity verification systems that use biometrics, facial recognition, or two-factor authentication to ensure the person conducting a transaction is who they claim to be.
  • Customer Awareness Campaigns: Conduct customer awareness campaigns about the risks of identity theft, encouraging safe online practices and immediate reporting of suspicious activities.
  • Collaboration with Credit Monitoring Services: Partner with credit monitoring services to receive alerts on suspicious activities linked to customer accounts, enabling prompt investigation and action.

5. Operational Distractions:

  • Staff Training Focused on Seasonal Risks: Conduct targeted training for staff on the specific risks and red flags associated with the holiday season.
  • Automated Alert Systems: Use automated systems to flag potential risks, reducing reliance on overburdened staff.
  • Workflow Optimization: Optimize workflows to manage increased transaction volumes efficiently without compromising on vigilance.
  • Temporary Staffing or Shift Adjustments: Consider increasing staffing or adjusting shifts during peak times to manage workloads effectively.
  • Regular Compliance Check-Ins: Schedule regular check-ins or briefings during the holiday season to keep staff focused and updated on compliance issues.

The holiday season, while a time of celebration and increased business activity, also presents heightened risks for financial crimes. Leveraging our extensive experience in financial crime trends, NGA guides businesses in implementing effective strategies to navigate these challenges.

Through vigilance, comprehensive anti-money laundering protocols, transaction monitoring, and staff education, businesses can effectively prevent financial crimes. Prioritizing these measures not only ensures compliance but also fosters trust, contributing to a secure and festive holiday season for everyone.