FFA UK warns of upsurge in commercial invoices and phone fraud

Small businesses are being warned that they are a major target for criminals trying to defraud them of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK) intelligence office has reported an upsurge of two scams in particular – bill fraud, where criminals send bogus payment requests – and telephone fraud, where businesses are called upon and tricked into revealing important payment details. Since fraud is not always detected immediately, stolen funds are often transferred quickly outside the UK, making it almost impossible to get the money back.

Police and bank reports suggest the following sectors have been hit the hardest:

  • Agriculture
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Legal
  • Accounting
  • Retail
  • Pharmaceutical industry
  • Energy sector
  • Editing
  • Outside of business, public sector organizations are also a target for fraudsters

To fight against this, FFA UK is launching today a major awareness campaign to make companies aware of the dangers and advise them to avoid being victims of these frauds. A simple guide and posters [attached] explaining how to avoid these scams, are distributed to companies in the most risky industries and placed in public work environments such as staff rooms. These are available on the FFA UK website. Educational kits are also available to help staff detect and prevent fraud.

Scams and how to avoid them are explained in the literature.

Bill fraud

  • How the scam works – Criminals seek out companies’ existing suppliers with publicly available information, then contact the company by phone or written correspondence claiming to be their supplier and requesting that payment details be updated. As businesses are regularly asked to change or update payment information, the request seems perfectly reasonable, but when the money is processed, it is sent to an account held by the fraudster.

How to prevent it – You should be immediately alerted if you receive an unexpected call asking you to update payment information. The criminals will have done their homework on you – so don’t assume, because they know a little more about you and your business, that they are genuine. If you don’t know who you’re talking to, call the company on a number you know and ask to be connected with the person you’ve spoken to before. If you are unsure of the validity of an invoice, call a contact you know at your supplier to verify its authenticity.

Telephone fraud

  • How the scam works – Criminals research companies, then call them armed with information that makes their approach more credible. They will then trick the business owner or employee into revealing key financial information or convincing them to transfer money to another account under a false pretext, for example to help prevent fraud identified on their account. banking. The criminal can claim to belong to a bank or to law enforcement agencies. The trick is often successful because the criminals ask their victim to hang up and call back a trusted number, while the criminal simply keeps the line open. Then, without knowing it, the victim finds himself talking to an accomplice of the criminal on the same line.
  • How to prevent it – You should immediately be wary if you receive a cold call and are asked many questions regarding your business financial information. There is no legitimate reason for the police or your bank to ask you for your four-digit PIN, or to ask you to transfer or withdraw money, or to give your card to a courier for them. get it back. If you are asked to do any of these things, someone is trying to rip you off. If in doubt, call the organization back on a trusted number but do so on another phone or leave it for five minutes. This is important because criminals can keep the line open for two minutes after you hang up the phone, which means you could end up inadvertently speaking with the criminal or his accomplice again.

Real-life examples of how companies have been scammed

  • A north London property company has lost £ 99,500 after a manager was tricked into revealing key information to a fraudster over the phone. He was told that a payment he made the previous week for employee salaries had not been processed and that some verifications were now required. Not wanting to delay the payment any further, the manager gave his financial details over the phone, including the security code for his online banking authentication device. The fraudster was then able to log into the company’s online banking page and wire money out of the account.
  • Farmers in Selby, Yorkshire, have been duped after a criminal gang claiming to be in a bank’s fraud detection department claimed fraudsters were trying to cash checks in their name. They were encouraged to transfer money to another account so that the frauds would stop, but these were gang-controlled and five companies lost tens of thousands of pounds each.

Commenting, Katy Worobec, Director of FFA UK said:

“Criminals turn their attention to businesses because successfully scamming a business can earn the fraudster much more than he could steal from an individual. Scammers also understand that small businesses are used to processing all kinds of payments, so a simple request to change an invoice or provide financial information has a good chance of cheating an accounting department.

“To avoid falling victim to scammers, always check who you are talking to and be wary if you get a cold call and are asked for a lot of information. If in doubt, call the company back on a number you know and ask to be put in touch with the person you have already spoken to.

The campaign is supported by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), the professional body for people in public finance. CIPFA recently launched the Anti-Fraud Center (CCFC) in July 2014 to lead and coordinate the fight against fraud and corruption in public services.

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