• Barclays data reveals a 20 per cent increase in business scams in the past five months
  • Impersonation scams increased by more than half (79 per cent) as opportunistic fraudsters capitalise on businesses working from home
  • The bank is running Brexit clinics throughout December to help SMEs prepare for the end of the transition period, and warn against fraud and scams

New data from Barclays released today reveals that there has been a 20 per cent* surge in business scams in the past five months, with thousands of SMEs across the UK falling victim to highly sophisticated and targeted scam tactics.

Barclays is issuing a warning to businesses across the UK to remain vigilant as the end of the Brexit transition period approaches, with criminals looking to capitalise on the changes and trick businesses 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 this year (42%), with an increase of more than half over the past five months (79%).

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%), in which scammers trick victims into purchasing non-existent products through a website that they believe is genuine, such as PPE or office supplies.

Whilst invoice and mandate scams (18%) 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 urging Yorkshire SMEs to stay alert, and is running a series of online Brexit clinics throughout December to help businesses deal with the new rules that will come into effect from 1st January 2021. The clinics will 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.

Caroline Pullich, Barclays Head of SMEs in Yorkshire, said: “Business owners across Yorkshire need to be on high alert for fraudsters who are looking to take advantage of the ongoing uncertainty generated by coronavirus, and the change the end of the Brexit transition period will bring businesses. Barclays run regular webinars to help keep customers up to date with the latest scams and how to avoid them, and if you are ever in any doubt you should always check with your branch or relationship manager.”

Barclays has provided a checklist of the key things for businesses to watch out for to ensure their fraud and scam prevention practices are up to date:

  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.

  1. Do your research

When looking to make purchases from a new seller, make sure you research the company, check customer reviews, and avoid placing large first time orders. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 your business from Fraud and Scams visit: https://www.barclays.co.uk/business-banking/manage/security/

To find out more about how Barclays is supporting businesses through Brexit and to register for a Brexit clinic visit: https://www.barclays.co.uk/business-banking/brexit/