Increased risk of Covid-19 invoice related scams to Irish SMEs

Increased risk of Covid-19 invoice related scams to Irish SMEs

FraudSMART, the fraud awareness initiative led by Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), is alerting Irish SMEs to the increased risk of Covid-19 invoice related scams following serious warnings from Eurpol about fraudulent new supplier websites and domain names coming online. 

As more and more businesses move online during the current crisis, and accounts personnel work in isolation from home, Irish SMEs are being advised on how best to protect their business and accounts through a new FraudSMART advice which outlines how businesses can identify and protect themselves from these scams.

FraudSMART say that due to the current crisis many legitimate businesses are now moving online having been required to close their physical shops and outlets. There has been a sudden upsurge in the number of new website addresses or ‘domains’ being registered and worryingly over half of those domains which contain the word ‘Covid-19’ have been created for criminal purposes. 

FraudSMART say the fake domains are fronted by bogus and malicious websites established by fake suppliers and vendors who are taking orders for goods and issuing invoices which unwitting and legitimate businesses are paying for, but the goods never arrive.

The organisation also anticipate an increase in a very sophisticated scam known as invoice redirection in which a business is approached by somebody pretending to represent one of their existing suppliers or creditors and told that bank account details for the payment of future invoices should be changed or made to a different account.

The request may look authentic, it may appear to be authentic, but on close examination it is a scam. If the request is acted upon, the next legitimate payment will be made directly to the fraudster’s account. 

Highlighting the current dangers for businesses, CEO BPFI, Brian Hayes,  who promotes the FraudSMART programme said, "In what is an already extraordinarily challenging time for businesses right now, we are advising all companies to be extra cautious when sourcing or purchasing products from new and untested suppliers and to verify in person any requests related to changing bank account details. FraudSMART has put together key advice on what businesses should look out for in relation to these scams and what measures they can take to avoid them."

He added, "We would urge all businesses to familiarise themselves with these as soon as possible in order to protect their business and its finances. Finally, we would advise that businesses immediately report any suspicious activity to their bank and their local garda station."