International Business Directories, False invoices and phishing particularly problematic.
Millions of Euro at risk from Business Scams and Fraud.
Increase in the number of email scams being reported.
Small businesses must be vigilant, especially during holiday period.
ISME, the Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association, has warned all businesses of an increase in the number of scam attempts currently being experienced. Many of these scams have convincing fake email addresses and websites, and international business directory scams are especially prominent. The Association estimated that these criminal activities were costing millions and advised SMEs to put in place policies to prevent these new and intricate 'rip-offs' of unsuspecting businesses.
The Association has received an increased number of calls in the last three months from companies who are being inundated with pseudo-requests, spurious invoices and sham deliveries, in the mail or over the internet.
Commenting, ISME Chief Executive, Mark Fielding, outlined, "These scams are particularly prevalent during the holiday periods as fraudsters are aware that, in many cases, senior management may be out of the office, leaving more junior staff to take decisions. This can result in a staff member signing for something that they should not be signing, resulting in the company being tied to a contract. Most of these scams concern invoices for subscriptions for online business directories".
"The latest attempted fraud involves companies receiving bogus internet correspondence from both the Revenue Commissioners and Taxation Institute requesting certain financial information to process tax rebates. This particular scam illustrates the ingenuity and lengths that fraudsters will go to in order to rip-off innocent businesses"
"Small businesses are already under pressure and can ill-afford to fall victim to these scams, which could send some over the edge. Fraudsters are becoming particularly sophisticated, and are devising new and intricate methods to rip-off unsuspecting companies. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to stamp out this practice; so the only protection for business owners is extreme caution and continuous staff training. The whole team needs to be vigilant and aware of the many threats posed to the business. Falling prey to a scam attempt is not inevitable for businesses, it can be avoided if the right training and processes are in place."
To deal with these bogus scams the Association recommends the following:
All invoices, hard copy or e-mail, should be checked carefully - especially those coming from abroad or unknown suppliers.
If in doubt about the validity of an invoice, call the supplier company for further details. All reputable firms will be happy to share this information.
Check the document for small print and read it.
Nominate one or two senior staff who must sign all documentation being sent to third parties in relation to directories and the like.
Ensure that all signatories within the company are fully briefed.
Ensure that all staff understand procedures for signing off on information leaving the establishment.
Never respond to an internet request for information from a bank - DELETE is the only action that should be taken.
Ensure that your business has an appropriate E-mail and Internet Policy for all staff. (Available from ISME).
The most important thing to remember is that your bank and the Revenue will never ask for details via email.
ISME also recommends that any business being harassed by bogus "legal" demands for payment for Directory entries to contact the ISME Helpline on 01 6622755 for the appropriate response.
"The increase and sophistication of business scams have the potential to cost SMEs millions of Euro, as well as the time lost attempting to rectify the problem. It is imperative that there is an increased recognition by law enforcement agencies of the extent and impact of this fraudulent activity on SME business."
"For all businesses, 'When in doubt don't pay out' should be the motto, particularly for all suspicious invoices," concluded Fielding.