The BBA’s Know Fraud, No Fraud guide has essential advice on what to look out for to help protect you and your business from fraudsters
Keeping your business’ money safe is your bank’s number one priority. That’s why they’ve set up secure procedures to protect you and your business from fraudsters.
But these criminals are often sophisticated and their techniques are constantly changing. One such ploy is to pretend they work for the police or your bank. Dangerous though this is, there are tell-tale requests a fraudster may make that your bank NEVER will. Knowing what these are can ensure you don’t fall victim to such an attack.
8 things your bank will never ask you to do…
1 Call or email to ask for your full PIN or any online banking passwords
2 Send someone to your business premises to collect cash or bank cards
3 Ask you to email or text business account passwords, PINs, personal or security details
4 Send an email with a link to a page which asks you to enter your online business banking log-in details
5 Ask you to authorise the transfer of funds to a new “safe” account or hand over cash because of a security breach
6 Cold call to advise you to make investments based on your account activity
7 Ask you to carry out a test transaction involving the transfer of your funds online
8 Provide banking services through any mobile apps other than the bank’s official apps
REMEMBER: If it looks suspicious or it sounds suspicious, report it.
BEWARE: Fraudsters may keep the line open even after you hang up. If possible, use another phone or wait at least two minutes before picking up and dialing again.
“Keep your cards close to your chest”
COLD CALLS, “VISHING” AND COURIERS
In these cases a fraudster will say they are from the bank or police, and that a fraudulent payment has been spotted on a business’ account or a business bank card due to expire needs to be replaced. To convince the intended victim they are genuine, the caller will suggest the customer hangs up and calls the bank back on the number printed on the back of their debit or credit card. But the fraudster never actually disconnects the line so that when you call the real number you are still speaking to them.
Often the fraudster will then ask the business account holder to log into their online banking and transfer all funds into a “safe” or “secure” account in order to protect it. The account is fake, however, and the business has passed their funds over to a scammer.
The technique of using a telephone call to steal banking information is known as “vishing”.
LOOK OUT FOR: Suspicious calls from your bank or the police, with offers to visit your business premises
BEWARE OF COURIER FRAUD: Sometimes the fraudster will pose as a bank and ask to send a courier around to a company premises to conduct banking business. Sometimes this involves collecting cards on the promise of a replacement or picking up cash.
“Paid too much? Do your checks…”
CHEQUE OVERPAYMENT SCAM
What to look out for:
- Any new clients of your business who send a larger amount of funds than you were expecting.
The fraudster, posing as a new client, places a small value order with a business and offers to pay electronically. When the business checks their bank account for the funds it seems the fake client has overpaid by thousands. The fraudster then asks the business to electronically transfer the thousands paid in error back to them and send out the goods.
A few days later the business will discover that the fake client made the original payment over the counter at a bank – not electronically – and they used a dud cheque which is returned unpaid. The business has lost the thousands they transferred back and the goods they dispatched.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS:
- Ask the bank to check the origin of any such overpayments.
- Check with the bank if you need to know whether a cheque has been “paid” – one that has purely “cleared” can still be returned.
“Too good to be true? It probably is!”
THE DODGY INVESTMENT FRAUD
What to look out for:
- Brochures through the post and cold calls from “investment brokers” you don’t know offering big money deals
Fraudsters pressure would-be victims with calls to wealthier individuals and business owners urging them to hand over thousands of pounds in return for “buy now or lose out” investments in diamonds, rare earth metals, land, storage, wine and even carbon credits. But the commodities are often overpriced or non-existent.
Some people have been lured into handing business earnings over after the promise of high returns. The average victim of an investment scam loses £20,000.
- Criminals use persuasive, hard-sell tactics, that often include using impressive job titles, technical jargon and creating a sense of urgency.
- Criminals will often advise victims to keep the investment a secret.
- Beware of companies that give only PO Box addresses and mobile contact numbers.
Brian, aged 66, Leicestershire. Business owner.
Brian was called by a persuasive man claiming to be a broker for a Japanese company selling shares. Brian was sceptical at first but a slick professional looking website with a Japanese contact number convinced him to invest around £350,000. When Brian’s colleagues became aware they contacted the police who could prove the man from the website had operated other websites offering fraudulent investment deals, confirming suspicions that Brian had become this criminal’s latest victim.
“Always read the small print”
What to look out for:
- Contact from unfamiliar companies requesting a response
The fraudster sends the business a form – generally through the post but they can also use email – offering a free listing in a business directory. They ask that the form is returned to them by the business, even if it is to refuse their offer. The trouble is the small print says that by returning the form the business is committing to orders costing hundreds of pounds every year, and a refusal to pay will result in legal action against the business.
OTHER TYPES OF POSTAL SCAM TO BE AWARE OF: Another popular postal scam involves a card being posted through a door from a parcel delivery service. The card is typical, saying the parcel wasn’t delivered and the recipient should call a premium rate number to rearrange delivery. As soon as the number is called, the caller will be charged a large sum of money for just a few minutes on the phone.
“Only pay for what you buy…”
What to look out for:
- Expensive invoices for services you don’t need, didn’t order or didn’t receive.
In false invoicing schemes, a scammer will send an authentic-looking, professionally-produced invoice for products or services which were never ordered nor received. They do this because some companies won’t notice and will pay the invoice anyway.
Sometimes fraudsters work with high-pressure telephone sales people to convince employees that the business has bought a certain product before, before bullying them into placing another order at great expense.
AVOID INVOICE SCAMS BY MAKING SURE…
- Robust controls are applied in accounts payable
- Staff are aware of all invoices due
- Invoices are vetted correctly with unique purchase order numbers
- Strict payment terms are in place
“The devil is in the detail…”
PAYMENT DIVERSION FRAUD OR MANDATE FRAUD
This is when fraudsters attempt to redirect existing payments to a supplier by changing the bank details of the beneficiary to their own bank details.
Fraudsters use a number of techniques, but they often manage to get hold of
or forge letterhead (or spoof the email accounts) for your genuine suppliers and contact you to say that they have changed their bank account details. The request purporting to be from the supplier can come in writing, by email or by telephone. The fraudster can often build credibility using information gained from the hacking of the supplier’s systems or from information gained through social networks.
This fraud can only become apparent when the supplier then chases for the missing payment. By this time the money received by the fraudster will often be irrecoverable.
THINGS TO BE AWARE OF
- Slight variations in the email address and/or domain of the business
- Any requests to only contact suppliers by the numbers given on emails or letters
- The supplier giving requests for urgent payment, with believable reasons as to why they aren’t able to comply with the usual checks and procedures
- Make sure you validate all change requests received from suppliers
“Really know your client…”
LONG AND SHORT FIRM FRAUD
This old type of fraud is being seen again, where fraudsters set up an apparently legitimate business but with the intention of defrauding both its suppliers and customers.
In a long firm fraud the business is established and trades apparently normally over a period of time, developing a good reputation with suppliers (and also potentially with customers as well), building up a strong credit history. The business may then start placing larger orders with suppliers and then disappear once the goods have been received, selling the items for cash elsewhere. Depending on the nature of the business, they may also start taking larger orders from customers and disappear with the payments.
A short firm fraud takes place over a shorter timescale with a more immediate move to the fraudulent transaction(s). The business may not try to establish any form of credibility or credit history apart from potentially filing false accounts at Companies House.
Suppliers of untraceable goods on credit that turn over quickly and are easily disposable are particularly vulnerable to these type of fraud.
Protect yourself by really knowing your customers and suppliers.
- You don’t need to become a private eye but use common sense when doing business with firms or people you have not dealt with before.
- There are also a number of checks you can easily do online. Your bank or finance provider may be able to help you.
- Ask for trade references.
- Visit significant new customers.
- Ensure that goods are delivered to identifiable individuals and addresses.
- Be wary if the only telephone numbers used are mobiles and the email addresses are only webmail.
IF YOU SUSPECT YOU’VE BECOME A VICTIM OF FRAUD
1 Stop sending money. Tell your bank immediately using the number on their website or other communications. Report the crime to the police through Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 (textphone 0300 123 2050).
2 If you are the victim of fake investment fraud, you should also report it to the Financial Conduct Authority consumer helpline on 0800 111 6768 (freephone).
3 Beware of other scams. You are likely to be targeted again, particularly by firms offering to recover funds you have lost.