What industries are most at risk for fraud?

While fraud occurs in every sector, some types of businesses attract more than their share of cyber criminals' attention.

Retail and commerce accounted for nearly 1 in 4 reported data breaches from 2005 to 2010, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.  During that time, banks and credit unions maintained a relatively high level of security, accounting for less than 5 percent of breaches. While non-bank payment processors handle a large volume of transactions, they accounted for only 2 percent of the organizations that fell prey to hackers during that period.

However, the non-bank payment processors that had so few data breaches also suffered the most from each successful attack. In all, these payment processors accounted for more than 35 percent of records pried open by cyber thieves.

That's all the more reason to consider wisely when choosing a payment processor.

No business is too small in cyberthieves' eyes

Sometimes hackers concentrate on the richest targets — large companies with vast stores of customer data. The Association for Financial Professionals found that 66 percent of organizations with revenues above $1 billion were victims of payments fraud in 2013.

Among organizations with revenues below $1 billion, the chance of being a victim remained high at 50 percent.

What's more, those losses mean more to small businesses because they represent a higher percentage of revenue. The damage varies, but about one-third of incidents resulted in potential losses of between $25,000 and $250,000. And nearly 20 percent resulted in potential losses of more than $250,000.

Mobile merchants a target

Mobile payments, while a welcome revenue stream for small merchants, must be accepted with care.

Merchants that accept mobile payments face fraud at a higher rate than merchants as a whole, according to a study publicized by the National Retail Federation.

What's more, a higher percentage of attacks targeting small businesses get through. Large merchants turn away nine times as many attacks as are successful. But small merchants prevent only 1.5 attacks for every one that gets through.

Increasing security in the U.S.

From a global perspective, merchants in the U.S. suffer far more losses from fraud than their counterparts in Europe or Canada. In fact, the Economist reports the U.S. is the only country where fraud involving counterfeit cards grows consistently. 

In October 2015, there is an upcoming shift in liability in the United States. Security is important for each party in the payment chain to participate in.