The bank is urging firms to beware as the end of the Brexit transition period approaches, with criminals looking to capitalise on the changes and trick them out of money. The bank has seen an uptick in the number and cost of scams to small businesses, as fraudsters have already taken advantage of the uncertainty presented by coronavirus this year. Of the tactics employed by criminals since January, impersonation scams were the most common (42 per cent), with an increase of more than half over the past five months (79 per cent).
Impersonation scams involve con artists pretending to be genuine organisations or authorities, in order to gain personal or banking information from unsuspecting victims. For example, a fraudster may pretend to be a telephone or internet provider to try and gain access to a victim’s computer, or even act as a bank manager, convincing their targets to divulge sensitive information.
The second most common type of scams were purchase scams (25 per cent), in which swindlers trick victims into purchasing non-existent products through a website that they believe is genuine, such as PPE or office supplies.
While invoice and mandate scams (18 per cent) were the third most common type of scam, they drove the second highest total value of losses, with an average loss of £7,300.
These scams happen when criminals send emails impersonating known suppliers with requests to ‘update’ their bank details, sometimes intercepting genuine email conversations. The business is then conned into transferring often large sums of money into a scammer’s bank account.
The bank is also running a series of online Brexit clinics throughout December to help businesses deal with the new rules that will come into effect from January 1, 2021.
The clinics aim to help SMEs prepare as the end of the period fast approaches, offering guidance on a number of areas such as fraud prevention, managing cash flow, exporting goods abroad, and managing supply chains.
Jim Winters, Barclays Head of Fraud, said: “Many businesses across the UK are busy preparing ahead of the Brexit transition deadline. However, they need to be on their guard as fraudsters will often ramp up their efforts during uncertain periods. Business owners, perhaps not used to the new rules following our departure from the EU, may find it more difficult to differentiate between genuine and fake claims.
“It’s important that business owners and their staff are aware of the different type of scams that can occur and if they’re ever in doubt, they should always double check with their bank or a source they know is genuine.”
Keep your business is up-to-date on fraud prevention
Barclays’ checklist includes:
1. Unexpected calls
If you receive an unexpected call – whether it’s your bank, the police, or a company such as your internet/phone provider – never disclose personal or banking details, or transfer money to another account. Never download any software or give access to your device. Instead, call the person back on a known and trusted number.
2. Do your research
When looking to make purchases from a new seller, make sure you research the company, check customer reviews, and if ordering from a new supplier avoid placing large orders initially. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
3. Know your suppliers
Some businesses may need to implement changes throughout their operations as the transition period ends, such as switching suppliers if existing ones are no longer viable. Because businesses will be less familiar with these new suppliers, this makes it easier for fraudsters to target them with fake email requests which may contain fake invoices.
Before making a payment using any new banking details, verbally confirm they are correct with the supplier on a number that you know to be genuine. Do not call the number listed on the invoice or email containing the payment instructions in case it’s fake.
4. Links and attachments
If you get an unexpected message or email asking you to follow a link or open an attachment, use a different method to check this before doing anything. And at a time when many businesses are working remotely, it’s even more important to ensure your corporate infrastructure is secure and your online systems up to date and protected with robust anti-virus and firewall software.
5. CEO impersonation fraud
Have you ever received an email from your CEO or financial director asking you to make an urgent payment? Fraudsters are able to impersonate emails and signatures to make them appear to be from the people you work with. Pause, pick up the phone and verbally confirm with your colleague that the payment request is genuine. If it really was them, they won’t mind you double checking.
To find out more about how you can protect a business from fraud and scams visit: https://www.barclays.co.uk/business-banking/manage/security/
To register for a Barclays Brexit clinic visit: https://www.barclays.co.uk/business-banking/brexit/