Beware of invoice scams

Recent research suggests that businesses across the UK are being scammed out of millions through invoice and mandate fraud with more than £50 million being stolen in 2023.

Separate research suggests that 31 per cent of UK businesses have been the victim of invoice fraud over the past year and, of these, only 39 per cent managed to stop the transactions before they lost the money.

Many of these scams originate via email or telephone calls in which the fraudster tells the potential victim that the bank details have changed. This means business owners need to be on their guard when dealing with requests for payment and should make certain that the request comes from a legitimate source.

As one business owner explains, being vigilant and contacting their supplier direct prevented the loss of £3,000.

In this case, the fraudster claimed there had been fraudulent activity on their account and that the business owner would need to change the supplier’s payment details immediately and pay the bill, preferably while still on the line.

A key tactic deployed in this, and many cases is the fraudster putting pressure on the potential victim by claiming urgency giving the potential victim little time to consider what they have been asked to do or to check that the new bank details are in fact accurate.

Fortunately, when this business owner called the fraudster back, he was asked for immediate payment to the ‘new account’ so he hung up and called the number he knew belonged to the supplier. He then realised that he had been seconds away from being scammed.

Helen Gregory, Forensic Director at Milsted Langdon, said: “The increasing prevalence of fraud and attempted is causing significant losses and frustration among businesses.

“Despite many reporting these crimes to Action Fraud or the police, it is uncommon for these reports to lead to prosecution simply because of the sheer difficulty in tracing the fraudsters.

“Business owners can help themselves by contacting suppliers using details previously supplied and taking time to consider what they have been asked to do.

“It is also key that businesses have procedures in place to ensure that employees are aware of the risks of such requests and what should be done when they receive one. Training in this area must be ongoing and kept up to date as the scams change.”

Sources: Business News Wales, This is Money, Invalua

Posted in The Forensic Blog.