Commercial invoice scams are on the rise – here’s how to stay safe

Fraudsters are increasingly targeting companies with fake invoices in order to defraud them with cash, the data suggests.

One in seven SMEs in Britain have been the victim of an invoice scam in the past 12 months, according to Barclays.

With companies likely to have many employees working in accounts with healthy bank balances, they are in the sights of scammers.

Essentially, invoice scams try to trick businesses into paying what looks like a legitimate bill sent to them.

Invoice scam Only a quarter of employees processing an invoice recheck with a colleague before making a payment

More than a quarter – 28% – of reported bill scams have resulted in losses of more than £ 5,000, according to the Main Street Bank.

Criminals tend to get their hands on genuine details of business invoices, including payment details, and pose as legitimate business vendors to take payment from a business owner or his employees who fail to do so. do not know.

These staff members think they are paying a genuine bill and then willingly transfer the company’s money directly to the criminals.

Ian Rand, Managing Director of Barclays Merchant Bank, said: “Fraudsters are getting more sophisticated with the methods they use to target hard-working UK SMEs and unfortunately we know fraud identity theft and bill scams are on the rise. “

The bank’s figures also reveal that hot spots for scams include the West Midlands, South West, East and London.

Statistics show that many scams could be easily preventable – only a quarter of employees dealing with an invoice double-checked with a coworker before making a payment.

Meanwhile, a similar number said they were scammed because they trusted the email address it was sent from.

The bank pointed out that the impact of such scams on businesses and individuals is considerable, with nearly one in five SME executives admitting to having had to cover the full cost of a scam.

Ian Rand says scammers have gotten more sophisticated with bill scams and many are tricked into paying them

Ian Rand says scammers have gotten more sophisticated with bill scams and many are tricked into paying them

Despite this, due to lack of time, only 19% say they organize invoicing training for all staff to help them spot a fake invoice.

Often, victims of scams find it difficult to get the money back or get their banks to reverse the transaction, as transfers are often done instantly.

Banks have been reluctant to grant refunds because they claim that those who transferred the money to a fraudulent account acted negligently.

But bank fraud victims who lose money to payment scams may soon be able to get their money back if their bank subscribes to a new code this year, which was released by the Authorized Push Payment steering group. Scams.

This new rule could also allow business owners to get their money back.

When asked if there are ways for SMEs to get their money back from the bank, a Barclays spokesperson replied: “We take each specific case of fraud or scam very seriously and will continue. examine customer issues on a case-by-case basis.

“We’re invested in helping people equip themselves with the knowledge and tools to prevent scams from happening in the first place, which is why we are issuing warnings like this.

“We don’t have a higher priority than protecting our client’s funds and have invested heavily in fraud and scam prevention initiatives.

“In addition to our prevention work, we also help provide the public with information and tools to detect and stop fraud and scams, including major TV commercials. “

The spokesperson added that once the scam is carried out, it is essential that it is reported to the bank as soon as possible, either by contacting the fraud department or by visiting a local branch.

“When a customer is tricked into paying their money to a criminal, the bank has no way of intervening in advance, so we urge people to check payment details very carefully and call the company beforehand. big payouts if they doubt. ‘

Rand adds, “We want to give businesses as much information as possible about common scams so they can avoid falling prey to scammers.

“Our network of more than 1,500 relationship managers offers SME counseling clinics across the country – arming them with valuable information on all aspects of business resilience, including digital security. ”

Six Tips to Help Businesses Avoid Bill Scams

To help businesses stay vigilant, Ian Rand warned of the dangers of invoice scams, giving SMEs the best advice on how to stay safe:

1. New invoices should always be checked

Call the company on a trusted number on your company files and not on the invoice or email to verify account details are correct

Don’t assume that an email, call, or text is genuine, especially if something doesn’t look right or the payment details are different.

Be on your guard – only 24 percent of SMBs surveyed said they would call the vendor or partner they are dealing with to verify the request is legitimate.

2. Train staff to detect false invoices

One in ten small business workers said they couldn’t spot a fake invoice. Learn more about how to recognize and protect yourself against scams on the Barclays Fraud Advice website.

3. Check the new bank details on the invoices

Barclays recommends having a clear procedure for making payments in your business and getting a second opinion.

One-third (33%) of CEOs, founders or CEOs do not check invoices before they are approved. If you are ever unsure of what bill you are dealing with, it is always best to have a second set of eyes.

4. If you feel pressured or anxious, take your time and always ask for help.

When asked how being the victim of a bill scam impacted the business, unfortunately 15% said it had a significant impact on their mental health and 13% said that the experience had such a serious impact that the responsible employee left the company.

A legitimate business won’t hesitate to wait, especially if it avoids putting employees in an awkward position.

5. Get help from your bank

Speak to your Barclays sales team or relationship manager to learn how to recognize and protect yourself against common scams.

6. Act quickly

SMBs should contact Barclays immediately through their sales team or the direct call feature of their mobile banking app if they believe they have been scammed.

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