Just how big a problem wire fraud has become is a matter of some debate - confusion fueled in part by banks' and businesses' reluctance to speak openly about it. But an alert sent in August by the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS/ISAC) to its members indicates the problem might be significantly worse than generally thought. According to The Washington Post's Security Fix blog, the confidential alert warns that Eastern European cyber gangs are stealing millions of dollars from small to mid-sized businesses through online banking fraud by planting malicious software on Microsoft Windows PCs and then wiring money to fraudsters.

Wire fraud differs from other sorts of payment fraud because payment happens so much faster, giving an institution little time to catch a suspicious transaction. Most wire payments aren't technically real time, there's usually a 20-60 minute delay, but that's still much faster than overnight ACH or the several days it takes to clear a check. According to a 2009 survey by the Association of Financial Professionals, six percent of companies experienced wire fraud, less than other payment types though still double the rate from two years ago.

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