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New SIG Checks If ‘Mobile Payments’will see a ‘Fraud Gold Rush’

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Bill-Trueman

By Bill Trueman CEO of fraud prevention consultancy UKFraud.co.uk

Bill-TruemanI have always believed that the effective fraud consultant has to have some ability to read the runes – to see how fraud will change over time or where it will evolve to once it has been defeated in a particular area. However, you don’t need to be that much of a fortune teller to see the risks that are facing the mobile payment sector; even though little research has been done into the nature of the threat in this sector, the problems at hand or the likely response of the differing parties.

Thus, UKFraud.co.uk decided to set up a new Special Interest Group (SIG) for the Mobile Payments sector. The new SIG will monitor, analyse and report on key market developments for use by stakeholders in the domestic fraud prevention sector. The SIG consists of leading fraud prevention consultants coupled with representative input from a wide range of mobile payment industry specialists. In its initial review,the SIG will analyse those characteristics and challenges of the mobile payment market that are most likely to encourage fraudsters to target the sector. In particular, the SIG will investigate the factors that could give rise to an increased risk of fraud. Amongst the key market challenges that the SIG will review are:

1 Sheer Scale of Market Growth
The SIG notes the appearance of a number of spectacular recent mobile payment market forecasts. These include a report from Reuters, in March 2013, highlighting a survey by ‘Heavy Reading Mobile Networks Insider’ suggesting: “The mobile payment industry is growing, offering revenue generating solutions throughout the market and potentially… $1 trillion in global transactions by 2015.”

The SIG is also conscious of the global spread of mobile payment, with the explosive growth of m-commerce in the United States, China, India, Latin America and the Far East. Recent data from the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) supports this, pointing to global mobile subscriptions now reaching 6 billion. However, in the face of this backdrop of explosive growth, the SIG is concerned that key sector protagonists lack visible preparedness for the likelihood of such large-scale market expansion or the resultant fraud risks that might ensue.

Indeed, the SIG believes from its own analysis of the sector,that only a small proportion of marketers currently have any formal strategy for leveraging and exploiting mobile payments fully. And, whilst there are also other reports that there is a huge need for ‘Mobile SEO’ to spread the news of the latest products to potential consumers, it is the SIG believes, also still a relatively scarce activity. Should this scenario represent reality on the promotional side, then it is also unlikely, the SIG believes, that adequate fraud systems will have been put in place by many of the main players either.

2 The Speed of Technology Advances
The SIG also recognises that the greatest challenge to the development of plans and strategies that align organisations within the mobile payments sector is the sheer speed of technical change. Seemingly, all the main mobile device players are racing to produce the ‘next best thing’ and major forces such as Google with its Wallet and Apple with the Passbook are also having a significant and positive impact with market pundits. The international card schemes also have an influence on the development route(s) as do many other highly innovative and respected third parties including: iZettle, mpowa, and PayPal. However the chances are, says the SIG, that whilst some of the other sector protagonists, regulators and customers could potentially struggle to keep pace with such an enormous rate of change, the fraudster thrives in such fast moving environments and simply ‘adapts’ like an ‘amorphous entity’ to outsmart and outflank the market’s developments.

3 What Are The Customer Perceptions of The Mobile Payments Sector?
Amongst the other contradictions to be reviewed by the SIG are claims by some pundits who point to the relatively modest levels of take up of mobile payment products to date. Whilst some believe that many people are waiting until the next ‘big thing’ appears, others cite the plethora of new products already appearing. Some claim that this consumer reluctance to adopt, is the result of confusion over the number and nomenclature of devices and financial products. Yet others highlight a number of recent high profile data breaches both amongst financial services and social media companies which drive caution amongst consumers. However,it is felt that once a major new standard or solution appears that the dam could break. When the dam breaks, the SIG feels,there is a potential concern that some of the new solutions will be more easily and quickly exploited by fraudsters than those that currently benefit from clear best-practice and consumer guidelines.

4 Can Standards Keep Pace?
Whilst standards would boost consumer confidence, the impact of technology and financial product churn coupled with extreme growth could, the SIG believes, threaten the applicability of many existing standards. Other newer standards might simply not keep pace. There is also, the SIG believes, a myriad of organisations from which such standards can come. This could well cause confusion for consumers and therein delight the fraudsters.

The SIG feels that a widely respected organisation that might potentially take a positive lead in the payments sector is UK Payments (formerly APACS). The SIG will also review other alternatives and analyse which existing standards bodies might develop an effective solution. Well regarded bodies might include: the ISO or the European Payments Council, which could potentially, some feel, develop a new SEPA regulation for the mobile sector.The SIG will also review whether widely acclaimed and respected card schemes (such as: Visa / MasterCard etc.) might take a lead as there is potentially a strong interest to capture the market if it grows rapidly.

The SIG feels that potentially mobile payments control could be evolved through an entirely new ‘standard’ that will develop by default and be adopted by others. It is possible, says the SIG, that this could be led by a card organisation, a proprietary payments provider, by an individual bank or a telecoms company. Indeed, the SIG believes that there is every chance that it could result from a collaboration or spin-off of any of the above. Indeed, as things roll-on so fast, this body may not yet exist.

Mobile payments could potentially, the SIG claims, replicate traditional magnetic stripe read transactions; or even replace the later ‘chip read’ transactions. This would cause an evolution in ecommerce transactions through m-commerce, and be the ideal facilitator of NFC contactless payments. In addition, mobile devices could very well become the first choice to be used by merchants as a payment acceptance terminal themselves.

5 Who Owns The Regulation?

The SIG will also review whether a ‘potential standards debacle’ might have a ‘knock-on’ effect upon regulation. The SIG feels that there are so many complications, and so many interested stakeholders, all with conflicting desires to collaborate or compete, that it is hard to know where and how mobile payments will be regulated, let alone who will ‘own’ the regulation.

It will be interesting to see the role governments play. The SIG feels that with the respected EU Cyber directive focussing on setting good foundations with the Network and Information Security standards in individual member states, the current thrust seems potentially a long way from specifically addressing mobile payments. Turning to the UK, the SIG questions whether the government is likely to drive innovation in this area, as the risk, payments and fraud skills within the leading departments (Cabinet Office, FED and the National Fraud Bureau) might not be those required.

The SIG’s new Chairman Kevin Smith (a former head of fraud management at Visa Europe and now an independent payments, risk and fraud specialist) feels that the review will highlight a need to ‘build fraud prevention in’ at all stages early on. In his inaugural address he noted that, “There will be so much potential change and growth, that it’s not just the technology vendors or financial service providers that are watching the situation closely. Rest assured that a seasoned group of criminals will be looking just as closely, albeit at a different range of opportunities. Only by sharing information and working together at an early stage can the sector start to properly understand the challenges and offer a really effective series of counter-measures. Our aim is hopefully to assimilate and collate a weight of analysis that will prove useful to those stakeholders who are keen to fend off fraudulent activity.”

Kevin makes a good point. In my view, sharing information and collaboration could work at all levels and could even be led by the UK government. Potentially there is a golden opportunity here for the UK to take a lead. Naturally a governmental lead would be preferable. However, some feel that The NFA (National Fraud Authority) and also the Cybercrimes Unit are rather more engaged in defending UK Plc., against attacks than driving commercial standards globally in internationally applicable growth areas such as this. However, they should play a major role here. Some though feel that recently the priority of these bodies has been turned upon the domestic public sector, as this alone is a mammoth area to direct and protect. Hopefully, though, if the mobile payments sector grows as fast as has been suggested, the UK government will then see an opportunity to invest an appropriate amount of money in safeguarding the UK from fraud in the mobile payments sector. In the meantime, we shall work alongside other like-minded groups as a collective approach is certainly one way to ensure that the right information is shared by those in fraud prevention who most need it.

The SIG’s findings will be published later this year.

About UKFraud (www.ukfraud.co.uk)
UKFraud is a leading UK based consultancy, with an impressive international track record of eliminating the risk of fraud. Its founder Bill Trueman is widely accepted as one of Europe’s leading fraud experts and a frequent commentator and writer on the issues involved. Trueman has extensive experience of the banking, insurance and the financial services sectors and is a thought leader at the forefront of many industry wide and international debates.

 

 

 

Finance

The Hidden Costs of International E-commerce

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The Hidden Costs of International E-commerce 1

By Gavan Smythe, Managing Director, iCompareFX

Taking a business globally can be an attractive prospect, potentially targeting markets with fewer competitors, taking advantage of a larger consumer base and even gaining access to cost-effective manufacturing resources.

However, it’s not as simple as just shipping product overseas. Successful international traders conduct extensive market research, understanding each region’s barriers to entry – whether it’s regulations around communication and marketing, finding key contacts in supply chain management or navigating legal and cultural restrictions.

This also means identifying the hidden costs of international trading, which threaten the bottom line of businesses.

The price of peace of mind

Online trading isn’t without its complications. Buying online means handing over confidential bank or card details and, without the right protection in place, it can leave consumers open to theft and fraud.

That’s why e-commerce payment services include a gateway model, which secures transactions by encrypting the cardholder’s details and managing the payment process for the merchant.

However, like any specialist service, merchants pay to keep this sensitive data safe. Gateway fees are typically calculated as a percentage of the transaction amount. And while this payment model is useful for SMEs – helping them efficiently scale – it represents an additional cost that many business owners don’t account for.

Those tempted to simply roll out the cheapest service risk damaging their reputation by potentially being an unsafe seller and one which undervalues its customers. This will eventually impact revenue, as customers look elsewhere, and merchants navigate the costly time spent ironing out problems with insecure payments.

When it comes to choosing a payment gateway service, key considerations should include working with a provider which operates across the same regions and checking contract terms. Some providers may charge set-up fees, monthly subscription fees or implement a blanket charge if a minimum volume of transactions isn’t met.

Merchants should also consider whether to use a direct or indirect payment gateway. While direct payment gateways allow consistent branding with customised design and copy, it may cost extra to integrate the service with an existing website.

Indirect gateways take users away to a separate payment portal on a different page. This is cost-effective to install and can appear more secure to users as they may be using a familiar and trusted payment gateway brand

Calculating conversion fees

As a business owner, payment gateway solution providers charge a number of percentage fees. While for sellers in domestic markets the fee structure can be quite simple, for online sellers in overseas markets, the fee structure becomes complex.

For example, as an international online seller, you can be subject to additional costs for processing international cards, plus additional currency conversion costs back to your business’ home currency.

In some circumstances, this can cost up to 9 percent of your sale revenue. A business has the choice of passing these costs on to the customer or to reduce its profit margin in international markets.

Businesses shouldn’t rush when it comes to choosing a provider. Taking the time to review and compare what’s out there puts them in a stronger position to choose the perfect match.

Providers vary in their offerings, from the regions they operate in, to their fees and exchange rates and even transfer speeds. Those who value trust and transparency may be willing to pay slightly higher to work with a provider which offers exceptional customer service standards, helping them navigate the currency exchange process.

For those moving into multiple markets, it’s worth using a comparison service or tool to make sure they’re partnering with the right provider for each currency pair and region, as it’s unlikely a single provider will offer a blanket ‘best solution’ across the global market.

The role of multi-currency accounts

Having looked at the impact of currency conversion fees, what can businesses do to mitigate these costly charges when it comes to trading in an increasing number of currencies?

Opening a multi-currency account allows businesses to access the speed and affordable conversion costs needed to make the most of international trading. They allow businesses to access unique local banking details in foreign countries and all balances and transfer controls are accessible within a single dashboard.

Not only are the conversion fees associated with these accounts much lower compared with transferring currencies between bank accounts but it’s also quick and efficient – allowing businesses to access funds almost instantly and pass this convenience on to customers.

Specialist money transfer companies that offer multi-currency account solutions offer these services at no monthly cost. Simple and low-cost fee structures are applied on currency conversion and outgoing funds. And incoming receipts of money transfers don’t cost a penny.

Not all multi-currency account solution providers offer access to the same currencies. Furthermore, not all payment gateways offer support for payouts in multiple currencies. Businesses should conduct an assessment of current and future customer and supplier locations to choose the most appropriate solution provider.

Conducting an internal risk assessment helps businesses decide which multi-currency account makes sense for them, based on key requirements, like the number of supported currencies, target regions, potential overdraft facilities and ease of transfers.

Managing international suppliers

In many industries, international e-commerce is not as simple as just sending products to different regions. Logistics and legal regulations across the world mean businesses are often required to work with local specialists to deliver their service or offering.

This may mean working with local manufacturers to produce products in each region or simply partnering with local marketing, PR or advertising professionals to create culturally sensitive brand awareness in the native language.

In these cases, the business becomes the customer. They are required to make payments in multiple currencies as they manage their global operations.

For example, UK bank accounts charge relatively large fees to make payments in foreign currencies and these soon add up when running operations around the world.

This is where multi-currency accounts again prove fruitful. Not only do they allow businesses to hold multiple currencies – which is ideal for sellers – but they can also send money to other accounts with minimal fees if they’re in the same currency.

Paying suppliers in the same region as their customer base can remove the double currency conversion by receiving payment gateway payouts in the foreign currency and paying out of the multi-currency account in the same currency. No currency conversion is necessary in this scenario.

Businesses able to identify all these costs and admin fees up-front will be best placed to get the most value from the research and comparison stage when comparing providers.

Ultimately, they’ll achieve the lowest possible fees for each market, currency and transaction.

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Finance

Digital Euro Could Spur Major Breakthrough Towards More Liberal EU Payments Market, Expert Says

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Digital Euro Could Spur Major Breakthrough Towards More Liberal EU Payments Market, Expert Says 2

The recent talks about a possible digital version of euro have raised discussions throughout the industry. According to Marius Galdikas, CEO at ConnectPay, it could greatly liberalize the market in terms of lessening barriers for market entry and present more opportunities for accelerating its growth.

With the ever-increasing digitalization transforming the modern world, the European Central Bank (ECB) has raised the idea of launching a digital euro, which would assume an electronic form of currency accessible to citizens and companies alike. According to Marius Galdikas, CEO at ConnectPay, it seems like a high-potential bearing solution, which could greatly liberalize the market, reduce entry barriers for new companies, as well as drive further digitization.

The European Central Bank has been weighing the pros and cons of the digital version of Euro for a while now. The idea is based on an insight that while there is an array of choices for retail payments, e.g. cash or payment cards, the market lacks a unifying digital currency, which could facilitate daily transactions, was easy to use, and would provide cost-free access to a reliable means of payment accepted throughout the entire eurozone.

“At the moment, digital euro seems to be bringing a plethora of benefits to the table, without waiving the inherent properties of cash,” said Marius Galdikas. “It appeals to the consumers’ need to go cashless, largely influenced by the coronavirus situation, and gives them more choices about how to pay. By no means will it replace actual banknotes—ECB emphasized this as well—but rather present a supplementary-to-cash solution that corresponds with the rapid levels of digitalization. It could contribute to a stronger Eurozone’s stance in the global payments market, too.”

Galdikas noted that while it offers quite a few benefits for the everyday consumer, the digital euro could be a game-changer for the fintech sector as well. According to him, having a digitalized version of the currency could potentially eliminate the need for middle-men. This would result in fewer barriers for new ventures to enter the market.

“In order to gain access to the Eurozone, first it is necessary to acquire a credit institution license. Only then it can join TARGET2 – Eurozone’s settlement system, which processes large-value euro payments in real-time. However, such licenses are usually issued to FIs that focus on collecting deposits or lending credit.”

“Consequently, it is much harder for up-and-coming fintechs to acquire the same licenses, as they have a more innovation-driven approach, hence, want to offer novel products,” continued Galdikas. “This leads to dealing with a fair amount of intricacies in order to ensure all-round compliance in the banking sector. Digital euro could restructure the current chain of authority and shape it to be more strategic, streamlining bureaucratic procedures and leaving fewer hoops to jump through.”

Inevitably, this would prep the industry to be more welcoming towards greater innovation, as fewer barriers would pave the way for new fintechs, looking to present novel solutions.

Currently, the idea of the digital euro launch is in the analysis stage. Over the next six months, the Frankfurt institution will be carrying out a series of experiments exploring risks and operational challenges, as well as undergoing a three-month public consultation, launched mid-October.

Although currently the move to digital Euro launch is predicted to happen over the next 2 to 4 years, the impact it would have on the European Union payments market makes it a highly anticipated solution.

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Tax administrations around the world were already going digital. The pandemic has only accelerated the trend.

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Tax administrations around the world were already going digital. The pandemic has only accelerated the trend. 3

By Emine Constantin, Global Head of Accoutning and Tax at TMF Group.

Why do tax administrations choose to go digital?

Among the many reasons, the most important one is the pressure to perform. Most governments complain that the tax revenues they collect are significantly lower than what should be collected. To increase the collection rate, tax authorities need better insight and access to detailed information.

Another key reason for tax digitisation is the need to address cross-border challenges and the issue of value creation.

“Where is the right place to tax cross-border transactions – is it the country of residence or the country of consumption?” has been a topic of discussion for some time. Adding another level of complexity, many cross-border transactions take place online. For tax authorities, the challenge is the lack of information about the users and the amount of payments made for the activities facilitated by the online platforms. Without such data, identifying the place of consumption is very  challenging

Where is tax digitisation at?

Most tax administrations are currently implementing e-reporting (enabling the submission of tax information in an electronic format) and e-matching (correlating the data received from different sources: e.g. both customers and vendors submit information on sale and purchases and the two sources of information are checked and agreed to identify discrepancies). Through e-reporting, tax administrations are able to:

  • Obtain real-time or near-real-time data submissions. Instead of waiting until the end of the month for summary tax information, each invoice is electronically communicated to tax authorities when it’s issued. This moves compliance upstream. Tax assessments are supported in real-time or close to it, instead of assessing transactions that have happened in the past. TMF Group’s research has found that 24% of countries surveyed globally require companies to issue tax invoices using technology and send them to tax authorities electronically, without any form of manual intervention. The percentage gets higher in the Americas (where more than 50% of countries have such requirements) and in APAC (where 36% of countries have no adopted this method).
  • Share best practices and boost cooperation with other tax authorities. According to a recent OECD report, 15 of 16 tax authorities surveyed use data analytics to drive audit case selection. With national implementations of BEPS (Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) and global tracking and monitoring, digital is a new focal point for the OECD. Tax administrators learned the value of such collaboration from previous projects and are putting that experience to good use by sharing approaches and leading practices.
  • Increase the coverage of the tax audit. Tax authorities request more and more data and more and more details during tax audits. Such requirements are not limited to technology companies that may host a platform where their users trade with one another. In some cases, companies have been asked to provide data files. In others, they have even been asked to install tax authority software on their systems.

When it comes to digitisation, it’s important to understand local and regional trends because the level of maturity can be quite different.

In Europe, countries are increasingly adopting SAF-T (Standard Audit File for Tax) submission requirements — long described as the closest to a consistent approach for managing tax audits.

Portugal, France, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are just some of the countries where SAF-T submission is now mandatory.

Digitisation brings benefits but also challenges for companies. In Spain, VAT refunds are suspended until SII (Immediate Supply of Information) submission is fully compliant. In the Czech Republic, the introduction of VAT control statements has led to many formal and informal queries by tax authorities with a required response time of 5 working days. All these requests put pressure on taxpayers to provide accurate tax data to avoid further enquiries.

LATAM is the most mature region in terms of tax digitisation. Latin American countries have adopted a “layering” approach, splitting tax and accounting data into “slices,” each with its own submission schedule, scope and format. Brazil is one of the most advanced countries in this respect. Virtually all accounting and tax data is communicated electronically.

In APAC, China and India have also started their journey towards fully-fledged electronic reporting.

A positive shift

Digitisation makes the tax journey easier, not only for the tax authorities but also for the taxpayer. One obvious benefit is the reduced tax return filing burden. For example in Poland, the submission of the VAT return was replaced by the SAF-T submission.

Based on the amount of data collected, tax authorities in Spain and Australia have created virtual online assistants to help answer tax questions. In India, the authorities are looking at pre-populating the GST return, reducing the amount of time that taxpayers spend preparing it.

Implications for companies

When responding to the electronic requirements of tax authorities, companies have some key considerations.

Data requirements – what will companies need to report, and how? What we see in practice is that:

  • Data sits in multiple places and companies need to either aggregate it automatically or reconcile it before extracting it manually.
  • Data is inputted manually and – as such – is prone to errors, inaccuracies and incompatibilities.
  • Some of the data needs to be manually adjusted outside the normal transactional cycle (e.g. output VAT on goods provided free of charge)

If a company faces any of the situations described above, the challenge will be to aggregate and validate the data before reporting it.

Processes – do current processes allow companies to collect all data that is needed? Often, the data collection processes do not allow for consistency or for storage of all relevant data. Processes might need to be adjusted to make sure that the right level of data is in place.

Technology – are the company’s current systems appropriate for reporting purposes? Existing software might not allow for accounting records to be digitally linked.

Tax reporting process – is the tax reporting process fit for purpose? As described above, tax resources need to be moved to the front-end of the accounting process: data needs to be accurate when entered into the system.

Companies that wish to mitigate these problems should follow these steps:

  • Understand local requirements.
  • Identify the required data sources and strive for a global standard. Looking for local solutions will not help you deal with the digitised world.
  • Create a library of tests – it’s believed that 70% to 80% of national revenue authority requirements are similar.
  • Prepare to respond to tax queries – as tax authority scrutiny and testing moves into real or near-real time, so must the response.

Digitisation is very much a global trend, more and more countries are introducing it, and it’s seen as a safe solution to reduce the tax gap. In the short-term digitisation may bring complexity, because it will affect how a company’s accounting and tax functions are organised. But in the long term, once processes are automated, it will save companies time and effort – and allow them to stay ahead of the demands of tax authorities.

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