A recent report from UK Finance found that UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) lost more than £59 million to fraud in the first half of 2021. This marks a 35% rise compared to the same period in 2020.

As your business recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, scammers will look to exploit gaps in your processes, and in the knowledge of employers and employees.

Keep reading for your guide to the types of SME scams out there, and what you and your employees can do to keep your business safe.

UK Finance confirms that scams are on the rise, with potentially devastating consequences for your business

As a business owner recovering from the pandemic, you’ll likely be adapting to new practices. You might be running staff rotations in your office space or have moved to permanent remote working. Scammers will look to capitalise on any gaps in these processes, exploiting employee or employer uncertainty, so it’s crucial to stay alert at all times.

UK Finance found that 80% of SMEs have received an unsolicited text or email asking for money and personal information, while 64% have received unsolicited phone calls. Of those surveyed, 62% said that they feel more aware of scams since the onset of the pandemic.

Worryingly, though, 16% of respondents admitted not challenging an unsolicited phone call asking for money or personal information.

There are 2 main types of SME scams to look out for

Education is key to spotting and avoiding scams, so you’ll need to be aware of the most prevalent scams out there, and your employees will too.

1. CEO scams

As criminals’ methods become more sophisticated, employees must understand not only business processes but also the reasons behind those processes. They’ll need to be aware of the business structure too.

Scammers are capitalising on employee inexperience or gaps in knowledge to impersonate business CEOs or senior managers. Exploiting an eagerness to please, fraudsters will ask staff to overlook normal business processes to make a payment. The requested payment is likely to be “urgent”, with the added time pressure used to rush your employee into making a poor decision.

Requests won’t only be received via the telephone either. Tech-savvy scammers might infiltrate your company computer systems and set up “spoof” email accounts that mimic those of your business.

Your employees could receive a seemingly genuine email from a manager or a member of your finance team requesting urgent help.

Training programmes to improve scam awareness and IT security can help to build a culture where abnormal requests are quickly spotted and rigorously questioned.

2. Invoice and mandate scams

Criminals might also pose as third parties from outside of your business. By impersonating a regular supplier, for example, a scammer could request that your employee amends existing bank details to those supplied by the fraudster.

Any invoice paid from that time could be sending money directly to a scammer and it may take several invoices and calls to the bank to chase payment before the scam is even spotted.

Stringent processes to sign-off and authorise changes of this kind should help protect your business, your employees, and your suppliers.

There are 3 key steps you and your employees can take if you are even slightly suspicious of a scam

As UK Finance’s Take Five To Stop Fraud campaign makes clear, criminals are experts at impersonating people, spending hours researching your business and employees in the hope that someone will let their guard down for just a second.

The campaign suggests a three-point approach:

1. Stop

Whatever sector your business is in, ensuring your employees are equipped and supported to take the time they need is crucial.

Encourage employees to stop and think before they act, especially if it involves making a payment or passing on potentially sensitive information.

2. Challenge

If anyone in your business suspects a request they receive – whether made by phone, email, or text – is potentially fraudulent, it is ok to challenge that request.

While scammers are likely to try to pressurise employees into making quick decisions, staff that are empowered to question the actions they take will be comfortable rejecting, ignoring, or passing a request further up the company ladder for confirmation.

3. Protect

If you think your business has fallen victim to fraud, contact Action Fraud immediately using their website or by calling 0300 123 2040. You can also forward any suspicious email you receive to report@phishing.gov.uk or use 7726 for a suspicious text.

Get in touch

Educating yourself and your employees about the dangers scammers pose is crucial for protecting your business. With £59 million lost to business scams during just six months of 2021 – and with scams on the rise – make sure that your company doesn’t fall victim.

Boolers can help you find the money you need to protect your business, so contact us today if you have any questions about scam protection or your wider business plans.