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Public warned to be vigilant as business loses over €200k in invoice fraud scam

In recent weeks, there has been a “noticeable increase” in this type of crime, according to gardaí.

Image: Shutterstock/igorstevanovic

GARDAÍ ARE WARNING the public of invoice redirect fraud and CEO fraud following an “noticeable increase” in such crimes.

Criminals have succeeded in defrauding companies out of very substantial amounts of money.

For example, one company lost over €200,000, another lost almost $500,000 and many people and businesses have lost smaller amounts of money.

In crimes of this nature, criminals send emails to businesses or individuals purporting to be one of their legitimate suppliers. 

These emails contain a request to change the bank account details that the business has for a legitimate supplier to bank accounts controlled by the criminals. 

These requests can also come by way of letter or phone call. As a result, gardaí are warning that caution should be taken with any request of this nature. 

The criminal intention is that when the legitimate supplier next sends an invoice to the company seeking payment for services rendered or goods supplied, the victim business acts on the new banking instructions and sends the payment to the criminal’s bank account where the funds are quickly transferred or withdrawn. 

In many instances, the business doesn’t know it is a victim of this crime until sometime later when the legitimate supplier sends a reminder invoice for payment.

CEO fraud takes place when an email purporting to be from your CEO or a senior member of the company is sent to the finance team requesting that a payment be made to a supplier or another third party.

Gardaí have issued advice from a businessman who was recently the victim of this type of scam and lost a significant amount of money:

Trust no email full stop. Incoming and outgoing mails can be blocked or redirected without you being aware. Assume all emails incoming and outgoing in your company are always being read by fraudsters for extended periods of time and that those responsible for payments within your company are a special target for hackers and their email history is being monitored. 
Check all incoming email addresses – that they are correct and coming from a trusted source. It’s important also to check other emails addresses copied on the mail chain, in order to check that they are also genuine. The hackers, by blocking others on the mail chain, isolate the individual making the payment, thus removing any other stakeholder from questioning the payment process. Simple changes such as swapping, adding or deleting letters in a mail address are commonly used to fool you into thinking it’s coming from a genuine source.

The businessman also advised people that “change requests are a red letter warning”. 

“Be especially vigilant for any requested changes of bank payment details. For example, amounts to be paid, account number, name of bank, etc,” he said. 

Finally, he advised that people “always pick up the phone to your supplier/vendor to verbally confirm the change request details”. 

Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan, from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, said: “Victims of invoice redirect fraud range from very small businesses to large companies and the consequences of falling for a scam of this nature can be catastrophic and result in the closure of businesses and redundancies. 

“If you are not sure, pick up the phone and speak to someone in the invoicing company.”

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