Unfortunately, there are always fraudsters operating, and the number of scams and types of fraud seems to have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Christmas time is also a time of heightened risk and perhaps even more so this year with people working from home and doing more shopping online. The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your business is to stop and take a moment to think and check that the email or website is genuine before clicking a link or sending a payment. We have listed below a few ways in which fraudsters operate and put you and your business at risk, and steps you can take to protect yourself.
Fraudsters identify key business relationships, and either initiate a bogus transaction or intercept email communications between a supplier and a customer and replace the genuine bank account details with those for an account they control. The customer makes payment to the fraudster’s account. The money is usually then transferred to another account by the fraudster very quickly making chance of recovery by the victim after discovery remote. The liability to the original supplier still stands.
These include impersonation and spoofing so that the email appears to be from a colleague. Often, they are seeking an urgent payment, exploit the fact that communication is not as straightforward due to remote working, refer to problems with an online banking application and ask for confidential information. As they appear to be from a colleague the request might be actioned without carrying out normal checks.
Passwords should be used to access your network and it is good practice to use them for each application which carries sensitive or confidential data. Passwords should never be written down and should be changed regularly. It is usually possible to set your system so that it requires the password to be changed at regular intervals. Passwords should never be shared, should be at least 8 characters long and should be a mixture of lower and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols
You may have employees working outside of the office using laptops, tablets, mobile phones etc. and these devices also need to be secure – both physically and from unauthorised login to personal or business data. Staff should make sure the devices are always kept on their persons or locked away out of sight, for example in a car boot, and are not left out in plain sight. Devices should never be left in a vehicle overnight. You should have the facility to remote wipe a device should it be lost or stolen. Many newer devices have this feature inbuilt although software can be installed to older devices to add this function.
Take Five to Stop Fraud is a national campaign that offers straightforward and impartial advice to help everyone protect themselves from preventable financial fraud. The website provides helpful advice and toolkits for individuals and businesses.
To help protect yourself from fraud take the advice of the campaign and Stop, Challenge and Protect if you receive any messages out of the blue:
Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
Challenge: Could it be fake? It is ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you have fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud
In addition to the specific actions noted above, we recommend that you make staff and other computer users aware of the risks, encourage them to follow the guidance above and speak to your IT support team, whether they are internal to your business or external advisers as they can offer help and further safeguards which can address the risks relevant to your business.
Whilst fraudulent campaigns seem to be higher at this time of year, we need to remain vigilant at all times and into the New Year, as the results of being a victim of fraud can be personally and financially devastating.
Stay safe this festive period and enjoy a break.
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