Small UK businesses warned of increased risk of targeted scams

·Business Reporter, Yahoo Finance UK
·3-min read
Hacker with computers in dark room. Cyber crime
In a new survey conducted for the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, 80% of SMEs said they had received an unsolicited text or email request for money and personal information, and 64% had received unsolicited phone calls. Photo: Getty

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have been warned of increased risk of scams targeting their companies.

According to UK Finance, British businesses lost £59.2m ($43.6m) to fraudsters in the first half of 2021, an increase of 35%.

“As many businesses start the new year with people working from home, fraudsters will try to take advantage of opportunities to steal money where firms might be working outside of their normal processes,” the trade association said.

“Criminals often attempt to impersonate 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.”

These scams then result in the victim transferring money to a criminal instead.

Read more: Bank fraud rises with 'authorised' scam complaints spiking 30% in the UK

In a new survey conducted for the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, 80% of SMEs said they had received an unsolicited text or email request for money and personal information, and 64% had received unsolicited phone calls.

The survey also found that although 62% of SMEs claim to be more aware of fraud since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, 16% still did not challenge unsolicited phone calls 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.

Read more: 'I take responsibility' for failure to stop £236m 'suspected fraud', says Bank of England chief

UK Finance have highlighted three key points for businesses to remember:

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.

“Criminals are continually becoming more sophisticated and are experts at impersonating people and suppliers,” Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said.

“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.”

Meanwhile, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) national vice chair policy and advocacy Martin McTague said: “Small businesses face almost four million cases of cybercrime each year, predominantly focussed on malware and fraudulent payments, so the need for vigilance has never been more important.”

It comes as recent data collected by Barclays (BARC.L) has shown that between January and October 2021 the sectors reporting the most cases of SME scams were property and construction (24%), retail and wholesale (18%), business services (15%), and manufacturing and transportation at 12%.

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