Following the Prime Minister’s announcements on Monday 23rd March 2020, the UK is now in lockdown, and those who can work from home are being urged to do so. Unfortunately, during this difficult time; criminals are taking advantage, to exploit people’s vulnerability in order to make financial gains.
I am writing to make you aware that during this time, it has come to our attention that criminals are using the current climate to exploit working practices. The increase in the use of online channels to allow people to work from home means that fraudsters have even more opportunity to trick individuals and businesses into transferring funds into fraudulent accounts.
We have been made aware that a number of businesses, and individuals, are seeing an increase in “phishing” scams. Potential victims are being contacted via email, to encourage them to “log in” to remote services whilst they work at home. Most notably, these scams have targeted those using Microsoft Office and DocuSign.
This type of fraud is called Authorised Push Payment Fraud (APP). These types of scams include encouragement to make fake investments, hacking into email accounts and prompts to move money to a ‘safe account’. Many criminals create highly-believable, realistic-looking emails that imitate those of reputable companies to dupe individuals into transferring money to an account that they are made to believe is genuine. In reality, this account is controlled by a fraudster.
It can be very difficult to recover the funds if this happens, as fraudsters often withdraw available funds as soon as they arrive in these accounts. However, you can protect yourself from scams like these by contacting the sender of a suspicious email via a telephone number you already hold for them, to verify if the email is genuine before taking action.
We have also seen an increase in scams that relate to HMRC tax rebates, which appear to be being sent out via text message.
By clicking on these links, you run the risk of exposing personal data or having malicious software installed on your personal devices. Therefore, we urge you to think before you click and pass the word to others, particularly the vulnerable and less internet-savvy, who may fall victim to these criminals so that we can minimise the impact of these unscrupulous fraudsters at such a pivotal time.
Please be assured that we are available to help you, and your clients. If you have any concerns, please contact our team, who will be able to support and assist you during this difficult time.