More than 40 percent of businesses in the UK are unaware of the risks posed by invoice fraud, despite these scams costing firms almost £93m in 2018, according to research by UK Finance.
Invoice scams take place when fraudsters trick businesses into transferring money by posing as legitimate payees.
Criminals target businesses by posing as a regular supplier and making a request for their bank account details to be changed, often by email. Businesses are then tricked into sending money to an account controlled by the fraudster rather than the genuine supplier. Often the criminals will try to acquire details from businesses, such as the date when regularly payments are due.
In all, £92.7m was lost by businesses to such scams in 2018, according to UK Finance’s latest Fraud: the Facts 2018 report.
There were 3,280 invoice and mandate scam cases involving businesses over 2018, with an average loss per case of over £28,000. Some £29.6m of the money lost to this type of fraud was returned to business customers.
UK Finance’s Business Payments Survey found that 43 percent of businesses were unaware of the existence of invoice fraud.
The survey of 1,500 firms across the UK found that more than half of sole traders were aware of the threat of invoice fraud compared to 68 percent of small business and 84 percent of large businesses.
Smaller firms were also less likely to have experienced invoice fraud, with around one in twenty sole traders having been targeted compared to a quarter larger firms.
Only one in seven sole traders have taken steps to protect themselves from these kinds of scams, compared to around half of small businesses and 63 percent of large firms.
Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said: “Invoice fraud could happen to businesses of all sizes. It’s vital that all employees are trained to identify potentially fraudulent transactions and follow the advice of our Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign.
“The gangs behind this type of fraud are increasingly sophisticated and will often get hold of details that allow them to pose convincingly as regular suppliers.
“If a someone contacts you asking for a supplier’s bank account details to be changed, always verify with that supplier separately on the phone or in person, using the contact details you have on file."