This week, I have some advice for our local businesses and traders, and for all of our residents who are local business customers. The problem relates to a blight of invoice fraud which is being perpetrated by many scammers. It is a threat to everyone, because the thieves send fake invoices tosteal money from individuals and businesses - often independent traders. It happens when criminals target a legitimate payment by a customer to a business, and redirect the payment to another bank account. Scammers may target you directly, by impersonating a supplier or subcontractor that you are expecting to pay.
Or, they may contact business customers, pretending to be the business, claiming that its bank details have changed, to trick the victims into paying into the wrong bank account.
The scam will only come to light when it’s too late - either because your real supplier is chasing you for payment, or, if you are a business, your customer is insisting that payment has already been made.
Invoice fraud is categorised as an ‘authorised push payment’ or APP scam. It’s called that because victims are tricked into making the transfers themselves. Scamming tactics for businesses: Scammers typically hack into the email account of businesses to intercept messages between customers and suppliers. This isn’t as difficult as you might think – passwords may have been leaked online, for example, or they may have used phishing tactics to steal your login details. Once they’re in, they can search for messages about invoices being regularly sent or received, making note of the way they are written, and any other details that could help them impersonate the business’s system. Armed with this information, they can then send fake invoices to customers or suppliers – either by doctoring an existing invoice, or creating a new one – using their own bank details. Even without access to the business’s emails, fraudsters may simply imitate a business name by falsifying the ‘sender name’ of an email.
If this happens to you, as a business supplier, contact your bank immediately and report to Action Fraud. Secure any online accounts by changing the password(s). You should also warn all customers and suppliers who may have been sent fake invoices.
Individuals and small businesses – employing fewer than 10 people and with annual turnover of less than €2 million – may be protected under the Contingent Reimbursement Model (CRM) Code.
This voluntary code commits banks to reimburse victims of APP fraud, provided certain standards have been met. If your bank isn’t signed up, you should still make a formal complaint, Nine of the largest current account providers have signed up to this code.
Explain what happened and that you are a victim of APP fraud. All banks must detect, prevent and respond to scams, under existing protections such as the Banking Protocol and anti-money laundering requirements. Your bank should respond to complaints about fraud within 15 working days. If you’re not happy with their response, or they fail to give you a final decision in time, take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).
Finally, a friend last week received a Covid scam message which relates to an NHS digital Covid passport - at the end of filling in your details, it asks for your debit card info. My advice is if you receive a text about a Covid-19 contact report it to 7726. I checked the link and am glad to say that it is now blocked.
If you or someone you know is struggling to pay bills or outstanding debts, Citizens Advice may be able to help. Citizens Advice Sefton telephone service is available: Help To Claim advice line number for help claiming Universal credit is 0800 144 8444. 8am to 6pm. Mon to Fri. For general advice . 0808 278 7841 (freephone) Mon – Fri 9.30am – 4.30pm and text relay for people with hearing impairment: Text relay: 03444 111 445 for people with hearing impairment .The debt number is 0151 318 6407. 9.30 to 4.30 Mon to Fri. Our local website address is- www.https://seftoncab.org.uk/Citizens Advice Lancashire West telephone is available between 9.00am – 5.00pm Monday to Friday, & 9.00am and 1.00pm Saturdays on Adviceline 0344 245 1294 and Help to Claim line 0800 144 8 444. Their website address is – www.citizensadvicelancashirewest.org.uk