Fraud Prevention Using Positive Pay

As we have already seen in previous articles, corporations all over the world have started automating their payments. Unfortunately, a high degree of automation has also given rise to a high degree of financial fraud. This has created an opportunity for a commercial bank to provide a service to their corporate customers. This is where the concept of positive pay was born. Positive pay allows banks to completely remove the possibility of fraud from their payments process.

In this article, we will understand what positive pay is and how commercial banks help their customers avoid fraud using this methodology.

What is Positive Pay?

Positive Pay is a service provided by commercial banks to their corporate customers. This service pertains to the check payments being made by the customer. In most corporations, checks are not manually signed. Instead, they are printed via digital signatures. This also creates an opportunity for fraudsters to forge a check using these digital signatures. Positive pay provides an additional layer of authentication and hence helps eliminate the possibility of fraud.

As per the positive pay process, the corporation must send an electronic file to the bank enumerating the details of the check issued. As a result, the bank already has details of the genuine checks which have been issued. The bank will then match the details of this check with the ones being presented. The bank generally verifies the dollar amount, check number, account number, date, payee, and other details between the check and the file.

Only if these details match, is the check marked as safe to pay and paid. If there is any discrepancy between the details, the check is returned to the issuing corporation in the form of an exception list. In some genuine cases, checks in the exception list may be because of a technical error. In those cases, the issuer can ask the bank to honor the check. However, if a check is genuinely fraudulent, it gets caught in the positive pay process.

Positive pay is a double-checking mechanism wherein the responsibility of double-checking every check which is honored is undertaken by commercial banks. This service is very useful for large corporations that issue a large number of automated checks and need a system in place to prevent the issuance of any fraudulent checks.

What is Reverse Positive Pay?

Reverse positive way works just like the positive pay system. This means that the details of every check issued are supposed to be verified twice. However, the responsibility of checking and detecting fraudulent payments is passed on to the corporation.

In such a scenario, banks create a list of all the checks they have received in a day on behalf of the customer. This list is then passed on to the customer with details such as payee name, check number, amount, date, etc. The corporate customer then has the responsibility to compare this list with the actual checks issued by them and flag any fraudulent ones. This process is more time-consuming since banks have to wait to receive approval from the customer before they can actually process the payment on their behalf.

In some cases, it is possible to ask the bank to automatically honor or automatically decline the check if they do not receive the response within a certain amount of time. However, this can be a risky process.

Advantages of Positive Pay

The most commonly listed advantages of the positive pay process are as follows:

  • System With Multiple Layers of Authentication: Positive pay process involved multiple layers of authentication. It is like a robotic second set of eyes that will scan each and every transaction before payment is allowed to go through. Empirical data suggests that positive pay is very effective when it comes to controlling fraud.

  • Less Administrative Costs: Commercial banks charge a very small fee per check or per account in order to enable their customers to use this facility. This is because this is actually a straightforward process that is completely automated from the bank’s side. Implementing a positive pay process can lead to cost savings as compared to manual intervention and monitoring.

Disadvantages of Positive Pay

The positive pay process has certain disadvantages as well. These disadvantages need to be understood as well.

  • High Reliance on Technology: Positive pay systems are highly automated. These systems function without any human intervention and process large volumes of checks. Hence, if the system breaks down even for a few days, the repercussions can be quite significant and a huge backlog can accumulate. Companies have to ensure that the maintenance of this system is done regularly to avoid breakdowns which can prove to be catastrophic.

  • Expensive to Implement: Also, since positive pay systems are technologically advanced systems, they require a huge layout of the cash up front to implement expensive technology projects. Implementation of these projects can also be quite time-consuming and may require enlisting the services of senior professionals. This may not be a problem for big multinational corporations but can be a deterrent for smaller companies.

The positive pay process is a case study about how commercial banks are using simple technological innovations in order to simplify the process of check payments. This process is an example of a small but valuable service provided by the bank to its corporate partners in return for a small fee.

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