Brexit: the banker’s view: scammers will be targeting your business 

By Jim Winters, Barclays Head of Fraud

Fraudsters use uncertainty to ramp up their efforts, capitalising on change to trick businesses out of money.

Recent data released by Barclays revealed a 20 per cent increase in the number and cost of scams to small businesses, as fraudsters have taken advantage of the uncertainty presented by Brexit and the pandemic.

Here are some tips and useful insights on what businesses should look out for – and actions they should take – to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.

1. Unexpected calls and text messages

First and foremost, 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.

Additionally, if you’ve received an unexpected text, such as offering you a business grant, or informing you of an outstanding tax charge, take a moment to consider its legitimacy. First, check the information in the text with a source on a number you know to be genuine and avoid opening links or responding with any confidential information. Be wary of texts that request bank details in exchange for refunds or other financial help.

2. Know your suppliers

Some businesses may need to implement changes throughout their operations to comply with new regulations, such as switching suppliers if existing ones are no longer viable. As 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.

3. Build in strong cybersecurity practices

If you receive 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 encouraging working from home where possible, it’s even more important to ensure your corporate infrastructure is secure, your online systems are up to date and protected with robust anti-virus and firewall software, and your employees are regularly trained on cybersecurity best practices.

4. 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.

If you think your business has been targeted, contact your bank as soon as possible who will be able to support you with next steps.