Increased Scams Warning from UK Finance

UK Finance, remote workers

UK Finance’s Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign is warning small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK to be alert for scams targeting businesses, especially those with people working from home.  The warning states that fraudsters are targeting opportunities to steal money where firms might be working outside of their normal processes. This might, for example, involve the fraudster impersonating a chief executive, senior manager, or supplier to try and convince staff to make an urgent payment or to change the existing bank account details held on file.

UK Finance figures showed that in the first half of 2021, businesses saw £59.2 million lost to these frauds, an increase of 35 per cent.  In a survey conducted for the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, 80 per cent of SMEs said they had received an unsolicited text or email request for money and personal information and 64 per cent had received unsolicited phone calls.

The survey also found that although 62 per cent of SMEs claim to be more aware of fraud since the start of the pandemic, a concerning one in six (16 per cent) did not challenge an unsolicited phone call requesting money or personal information.

The Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign urges businesses to remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. They recommend that businesses should:

  • STOP: If you receive a request to make an urgent payment, change supplier bank details or provide financial information, take a moment to stop and think.
  • CHALLENGE: Could it be fake? Verify all payments and supplier details directly with the company on a known phone number or in person first.
  • PROTECT: Contact your business’s bank immediately if you think you’ve been scammed and report it to Action Fraud.

Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said:  

“Criminals are continually becoming more sophisticated and are experts at impersonating people and suppliers. As we start the new year, businesses should make it a priority to be wary of any unexpected contact requesting an urgent payment and to be careful with the type of information you share online about your business.

“The banking industry is tackling fraud on every front, but It’s important for businesses to always stay alert and when in doubt, remember the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to Stop, Challenge, Protect”.

Data collected by Barclays has shown that between January and October 2021 the sectors reporting the most cases of SME scams were property and construction (24 per cent), retail and wholesale (18 per cent), business services (15 per cent), and manufacturing and transportation (12 per cent).

Common scams targeting business include:

  • CEO scam: criminals impersonate a boss or a senior manager to convince staff to make an urgent payment outside of their business’s internal procedures. Sometimes they gain access to a business’s email account by hacking or use spoofing software to email a member of the finance team with what appears to be a genuine email from their boss or a senior manager.
  • Invoice and mandate scams: criminals pose as regular suppliers and convince the business to change their existing bank account details on file. They are then tricked into sending money to the account which is controlled by a criminal rather than the genuine supplier.

More information regarding UK Finance’s 2021 Half Year Fraud Report can be found here. The Take Five to Stop Fraud is a national campaign that offers straightforward and impartial advice to help everyone protect themselves from preventable financial fraud.

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