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My Management Accountant

Top Tips for Identifying and Avoiding Business Fraud


Date posted: 2021-07-01

Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen a number of clients and associates being targeted by very specific fraudsters. Business fraud is estimated to cost the UK economy up to £130bn per year. PWC ran a global survey which found that 56% of businesses have been affected by fraud in the last year. But what should we be looking out for? What are the latest business fraud scams?

Impersonating a CEO

A fraudster will impersonate a senior exec of a business, such as the Finance Director or CEO via email or internal message. They then try to extort funds or sensitive data from a business.

Examples we’ve seen are of the CEO requesting someone in the business to buy electronic gift cards. They then ask for the gift cards (for retailers such as Amazon) to be forwarded to a specific email address. We’ve also seen emails where the CEO is asking someone to make an urgent payment to a supplier.

Scammers make every effort to make the emails look legitimate. The name and email signatures are correct. Some fraudulent emails have originated from within the affected business (because they have been hacked) as well as emails that have been set up externally (say, in Gmail) but made to look like they’re from someone within the business.

Make sure your staff are aware of this scam. Encourage a work environment where questioning a senior member of staff when they make an unusual request is understood and accepted. Check by phone before you make the purchase!

Hacking a supplier

Typically, a hacker gains access to a business domain, sends out ‘change of bank account details’ emails to all its customers. They’re hoping that some recipients will simply change the account details in their own bank system and pay outstanding invoices to the new bank account.

Always contact a supplier by phone to confirm they have changed their bank details.

Calls from HMRC

There has been a significant rise in cases of criminals impersonating HMRC over recent months, including fake letters being sent to businesses requesting payments. These particular scams are aimed at both business fraud and personal accounts.

HMRC will never send emails requesting payment or information. If HMRC contact you requesting you phone them quickly check online to see if the number provided is legitimate.

We’ve also had a number of clients who have received the phone call from HMRC informing them that unless they make immediate payment they will be arrested by the officers currently on the way to their address. Or they’re under investigation for tax fraud.

Links in emails or text messages

Many scammers also target your mobile number. Some red flags to look out for are things like:

  • Fake URLs that don’t match the company’s usual domain name
  • Unexpected urgent requests e.g. your account will be cancelled, your broadband will be switched off, HMRC will come and arrest you
  • Messages from mobile numbers claiming to be large organisations e.g. Royal Mail or your bank
  • Poor spelling and strange wording

It can be difficult to identify these, particularly as fraudsters are putting more and more effort into making themselves look legitimate. Remember if you’re in any doubt, don’t click the link!

How we can help:

Call our team if you suspect an email you’ve received regarding paying taxes, paying invoices, or supplying confidential information is fake. We can help you check its authenticity and combat business fraud.

Speak to us about any communication you’ve received from HMRC. As your agents we should receive copies of all letters posted to you, but they don’t always arrive in a timely manner. We will be able to reassure you whether communication from HMRC is legitimate or otherwise.

Contact us if you’d like to run a check on a business. We’re now able to offer financial credit checks as well as cross check VAT numbers on companies.


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