Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been warned to be aware of the ongoing risk of fraud, with scammers increasingly targeting companies with work-from-home plans in place.
In the first half of 2021, UK Finance research found that SMEs lost £59.2m to scams, an increase of 35 per cent.
As many businesses start the new year with employees working from home, the trade body warned that fraudsters will try to take advantage of opportunities to steal money where firms might be working outside of their normal processes.
For instance, criminals may impersonate a chief executive, senior manager, or supplier, to try and convince staff to make an urgent payment or to change bank details.
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According to a new survey conducted by UK Finance, 80 per cent of SMEs said they had received an unsolicited text or email request for money and personal information, while 64 per cent had received unsolicited phone calls.
62 per cent of SMEs told UK Finance that they had become more aware of fraud since the start of the pandemic. However, 16 per cent admitted that they did not challenge an unsolicited phone call requesting money or personal information.
To help SMEs avoid these scams, UK Finance has launched a ‘Take Five to Stop Fraud’ campaign, which aims to highlight the risks to SME businesses.
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“Criminals are continually becoming more sophisticated and are experts at impersonating people and suppliers,” said Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance.
“As we start the new year, 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.
“The banking industry is tackling fraud on every front, but it’s important for businesses to always stay alert and when in doubt, remember the advice of the ‘Take Five to Stop Fraud’ campaign to Stop, Challenge, Protect.”
The small business commissioner, Liz Barclay, added: “Data shows scams are on the rise and businesses are having to grapple with the fall out.
“Suffering losses because of fraud can leave your finances in ruin. Imagine that a supplier emails you, saying that they need urgent payment to new bank details. It would be very easy to get sucked in by an email which looks genuine when you’re in a rush.
“Please, please take nothing at face value and check with anyone you need to pay before responding to texts, emails or calls.
“We need to make it impossible for the scammers to scam us.”