Business fraud

Fraud is a very real threat that businesses face every day. With the growing use of technology, fraud is becoming more sophisticated and even harder to detect.

Make sure you’re aware of what to look out for, and what you can do to can prevent yourself from becoming a victim of business fraud.

Counterfeit money

Passing counterfeit money is an economic crime and one that costs millions in lost revenue.

It’s an issue that can be dealt with effectively by taking a proactive approach to identifying counterfeit notes. Equipment such as marker pens and UV light sources are a quick and easy way to check the notes you are given. 

To keep counterfeit money out of your business:

  • educate staff on the anti-counterfeit security features that banknotes carry, such as raised print and holograms
  • tell neighbouring businesses of any counterfeit money transactions
  • keep all CCTV evidence
  • make sure staff know what to do if they suspect a fake banknote or coin

The Bank of England have created a Banknote App, which aims to teach those who regularly handle banknotes how to spot a counterfeit. It’s free to download and gives detailed photos of all current Bank of England banknotes and their security features.

If you are given a counterfeit bank note:

  • keep the suspect note, without putting staff at risk
  • give the customer a receipt and explain that the note will be handed to the police
  • call the police and give them the counterfeit note, or take it to a police station  

Counterfeit notes will be sent to the Bank of England for analysis. Notes that are discovered to be genuine will be returned. 

Card not present fraud 

Card not present fraud is when a transaction happens and the customer is not present at the point of sale.

If the customer isn’t present, you should be concerned if:

  • the value is excessive compared to normal business
  • the cardholder is buying several units of same item
  • you are delivering multiple orders to the same address
  • when a transaction is declined they offer different cards to pay

Make sure your staff know what the policy is and what to do if they suspect a fraudulent transaction.

Capture any evidence you can. This could include the date and time of the call, a description of the person's voice and any unusual words or phrases they may have used.

Mandate fraud

Mandate fraud is when a fraudster gets a business to change the payment details of a direct debit, standing order or bank transfer mandate. The do this by claiming to be an organisation that the business makes regular payments to.

A regular supplier may contact you by letter, email or telephone to tell you their bank account details have changed. They will then provide the new details and ask you to change the payment details on your system to reflect this. Once the direct debit bank mandate is amended service and supplies from the genuine supplier will stop. 

Mandate fraud can also happen when a fraudster hacks your online bank account and changes existing direct debit details to pay into their own account. 

To protect your business from mandate fraud:

  • make sure you shred any paperwork with your company details, or from suppliers
  • use strong passwords for online banking and change them regularly
  • only give banking passwords to staff who need access
  • don’t leave bills lying around for others to see

If you are contacted by someone claiming to be from a company you make regular payments to, don’t take their word for it. Always check that it’s a genuine request by calling the company back. When you do this, use a phone number you have on file, don’t call the number printed on the letter or given to you over the phone as it could be fake. 

Don’t give out any sensitive details until you’re sure the contact is genuine. 

You should tell your bank immediately if you see any unusual activity on your account, or if you suspect mandate fraud.

Protecting customers

Members of the public can often be caught out by conmen. They could be driven by the fraudster to the bank to withdraw money, or pressured to send them money. 

Banks, post offices and other money services can help to disrupt this type of crime, and stop it from continuing.

Members of staff should look out for customers who:

  • seem to be withdrawing an unusually large amount of cash
  • appear edgy or nervous
  • keep checking their phone, or their phone keeps ringing
  • are in a hurry
  • when questioned what the money is for give abrupt answers
  • have someone else with them that looks suspicious
  • have said they have been driven to the bank
  • ask for lots of cheque books each month
  • are trying to send money to an overseas account
  • are paying for building or gardening work, but don’t have a written quote

If you see someone you believe is being conned:

  • try to keep the customer in the bank, take them to a side room to ask more questions
  • ask for a manager to speak to the customer with you
  • write down the conversation afterwards and make a note of any description the customer has given of the perpetrator
  • ask if they have a family member you can call

You can call the police on 101, Trading Standards or Action Fraud if you need further help and advice. 

Report it

Report fraud using the Action Fraud online fraud reporting service

You can also get further help and advice by calling the Action Fraud contact centre.

Further advice and support

Action Fraud - Help and advice on all types of fraud.

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