TT337: Fraudsters don’t stop for Christmas

January 04, 2021

Many people will be aware that fraud attempts online have escalated during the Covid period.  Fraudsters have used the fact that people are working from home and are not in regular contact with colleagues to try and gain an advantage and extract money under false pretences.

From fake text messages to emails and phone calls, the rewards for such fraudulent behaviour can be high, so we have seen an increase in attempts directed at both us and our client base.

  • Simple frauds try and get an advanced fee from you, for example, a common one is a fake text from DHL trying to deliver a parcel on which a small fee is due.
  • More complex ones pretend to be a colleague, emailing to ask for an urgent payment to be made.
  • Email phishing attempts try and get people to reveal their username and password, thus allowing fraudsters to access the victim’s email to try and fund useful information.  E.g. intercepting payments due to solicitors and redirecting them to the fraudster.
  • Telephone calls to try and get urgent payments made.  E.g. Amazon account in arrears, or phone/internet about to be cut off.  Or pretending to be a bank and needing you to move your money urgently.
  • Fake invoices, often pretending a business has been listed in a directory, or when a trademark or some other intellectual property has been registered, pretending that the fee is due for a European registration database.  The invoice, in fine small print, says this is not an invoice, rather an invitation to subscribe, but to all purposes it looks like a real invoice due for payment.
  • And the list goes on…

Very few attacks are technically based, hacking computers, etc.  The vast majority rely on taking advantage of human nature.  They find someone who can make a payment, leverage some sort of urgency (often using HM Revenue & Customs as a threat) and create a panic that a payment needs to be made today.  The very nature of us all, as individuals, is that given the right circumstances we can all be taken in from time to time.

These useful links outline the types of frauds to watch out for.

Recently we have seen a new fraud.  Several of our clients have received phone calls from someone pretending to work for us.  The person, well spoken and plausible, explains they are calling from the company’s auditors and need to speak about the corporation tax compliance of the company.  Fortunately, our clients have seen through the fraudster’s call, so we don’t know which direction their scam will go, but one assumes that, following other patterns, they will state that some tax is urgently overdue and try to get a payment, possibly via “our client account” to sort it out.

So what is the lesson?  I suppose we all need to be aware that an unsolicited contact, claiming a payment urgently needs doing, often using the “HMRC threat” is probably a fraud and the recipient needs to step back and call a colleague or their accountant to ensure that the call was genuine.  If one of our team has really called you about a genuine payment needed we will not be insulted if you want to double check.

So, please be careful and remain sceptical about any calls, texts or emails requiring an urgent payment and do take the time to confirm the legitimacy of the demand.  If in doubt, please call your Barnes Roffe contact.

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