We discuss this at every Just Audit planning meeting. Making online payments are convenient, quick and commonplace. But what is really important is that we don't fall into the trap of trusting every email or phone call we get to make payments.
Scammers are increasingly sophisticated and can do many things to make you believe you are dealing with a trusted source. They can intercept emails, forward them on and convincingly present them as the real deal. Almost always these payments can't be recovered. Barclays Bank cited an unrecoverable £70,000 business payment in one of its recent warning emails.
The safest way to make a payment online or by phone is for you to instigate the payment. You get the correct details, you make the phone call, you make the payment - all from your end, using your own contact information.
We know of a recent tax payment made to HMRC. It was organised by HMRC and involved a phone call to collect the large payment. The business reversed this decision so that they made the call and completed the payment in that sequence. A tiny detail but absolutely vital to safeguard their finances. In this instance it was a genuine arrangement but as it was company policy to follow this procedure, it was less of a risk.
Top tips to avoid banking scams:
Always phone and check any requests for payment.
Don't use the phone number or follow a link in the request email, find the contact details yourself - either from previous correspondence or via the internet.
Ask for any changes to be confirmed - call someone you know.
Make the procedure for online payments known company-wide so all staff follow the same rules.
Take Five, a fraud awareness initiative led by UK Finance recommends us all to 'stop, challenge and protect'. We recommend doing this in conjunction with the advice we've outlined above.