UK Finance issues warning to SMEs over scams

UK Finance has warned small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) across the UK to be alert for scams targeting their firms.

Figures from the banking body show that the first half of 2021 saw businesses lose £59.2m to these frauds, an increase of 35% on the year before.

UK Finance highlighted that criminals can often attempt to impersonate a chief executive, senior manager, or supplier to try and convince staff to make an urgent payment, or to change the existing bank account details held on file.

In a survey conducted for UK Finance’s Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign – which is urging businesses to remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police – 80% of SMEs said they had received an unsolicited text or email request for money and personal information, while 64% had received unsolicited phone calls.

The survey also found that although 62% of SMEs claim to be more aware of fraud since the start of the pandemic, one in six (16%) did not challenge an unsolicited phone call requesting money or personal information.

“Criminals are continually becoming more sophisticated and are experts at impersonating people and suppliers,” commented UK Finance managing director of economic crime, Katy Worobec. 

“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.”

Furthermore, data collected by Barclays has shown that between January and October 2021, the sectors reporting the most cases of SME scams were property and construction (24%), followed by retail and wholesale (18%), business services (15%), and manufacturing and transportation (12%).

“Business crime is a serious issue for small firms right across the country, with fraud being one of the key problems at hand and one that has only been accelerated due to the increase in online trading and e-commerce during the pandemic,” added Federation of Small Businesses National Vice Chair Policy and Advocacy, Martin McTague.

“Small businesses face almost four million cases of cybercrime each year, predominantly focussed on malware and fraudulent payments, so the need for vigilance has never been more important.

“Only by raising awareness of these sorts of fraud cases will we stand a chance of protecting small businesses for the future.”

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