Scamwatch: small business fraud

Criminals know they can make more by defrauding a company...

frustrated mature businessman...

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, we focus on the criminals targeting small businesses, some 286,000 of which have been affected by fraud.

How does it work?
The main scams that business owners need to look out for are card, cheque and identity fraud, according to research from credit reference agency Experian.

It found that small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with more than nine employees were the most likely to have fallen victim to fraud, with 27% losing money as a result of being taken in by scams of this kind.

Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA) director Katy Worobec is therefore warning small businesses to be on their guard.

"Criminals are turning their attention to businesses because successfully scamming a company can net the fraudster a much bigger haul than they could steal from an individual," she said.

How can I avoid being caught out?
FFA figures show that SMEs are particularly likely to be targeted with invoice fraud, where criminals send in fake requests for payment, and phone fraud, where companies are telephoned and tricked into revealing important payment details.

The best ways to protect your business therefore include double checking any invoices received and never giving out your login or personal details when responding to emails or phone calls.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?
There are no two ways about it: being a victim of fraud can cause big problems for a small firm.

Ade Potts at Experian said: "No matter what the size of the loss, whether it is £1,000 or £10,000, an unplanned loss can have a big impact on an SME, both financially and operationally."

So if, for example, you suspect that you or an employee might have compromised the security of any financial details, it is vital to contact your bank straight away to secure your accounts.

You should also report the fraud to the police via Action Fraud on 0300 123 20 40.

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