Scams are becoming more sophisticated. In the past they were much easier to spot: not addressed to individuals by name; spelling and grammar all over the shop; asking for details that we all know never to give out. Now it takes constant vigilance to spot the baddies. Small businesses are being asked to ‘Stop, Challenge, Protect’ by the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and to take a moment to check everything is as it should be before responding.
According to UK Finance, in the first half of 2021 businesses lost £59.2 million to scams and frauds. That was an increase of a third on the same period in 2020.
When times are tough, criminals see opportunities. Imagine that you’re waiting for a payment to come in and are worrying about how to pay your bills and wages. The relief when an email pings in asking for your bank details, so that you can receive the payment, is huge. But is that email genuine? Stop and check – no business, of any size, can afford to take any approach asking for bank details or personal information at face value.
Business owners have to do everything they can to protect themselves and their business. Re-check with anyone you need to pay or be paid by, before giving any information that could lead to you being scammed. We need to make it impossible for the fraudsters to scam us.
Suffering losses because of fraud can leave your finances in ruin. Even if you do get your money refunded by the bank, the temporary hit to the cashflow of your business can leave you having to borrow to cover the gap. The costs of additional borrowing that hasn’t already been factored into financial planning may be small in the overall scheme of things, but if you’re already struggling with inflation, wage hikes, and energy spikes, on top of debts from the pandemic, those costs could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
No matter how many times you have dealt with a particular customer or supplier, if you get an email with changes to their bank details or asking for your information, don’t take it on faith. Stop and challenge what you’ve received and protect your business. Ignore any phone number given on the email and ring using a number you trust to check. No firm that you work with will mind. You could be saving them from being scammed too. Don’t let the criminals take your hard-earned cash, and possibly even your business – remember to ‘Stop, Challenge Protect’.
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.
Could it be fake? Verify all payments and supplier details directly with the company on a known phone number or in person first.
Contact your business’s bank immediately if you think you’ve been scammed and report it to Action Fraud.