How to avoid online payment scams

The saying goes, cash is king, and with the impact of COVID19 on most business finances, the last thing you want to fall victim to is fraud.

As businesses look to take advantage of the government support available, there are many businesses receiving hefty sums of money in the form of bounce back loans and furlough payments which are meant to help their business survive the pandemic. 

Unfortunately, this is resulting in a significant increase of cyber-attacks and online fraud, with UK fraud prevention body, Cifas, specifically reporting a surge in phishing emails purporting to be from the HMRC since the rollout of government financial support.

To prevent you and your business from becoming a victim of fraud, here are a few useful tips on how you can spot and prevent attacks and scams.

Making online payments

When creating a new payee or amending payee details, there are things you need to be on the lookout for to ensure your money gets to the correct destination.

Check that the name of the person or business you are sending money to is the same as it appears on the account. When paying businesses or organisations, for example, the trading name may be different from the registered name, so make sure to clarify the details are correct before confirming the transaction.

To help with this, banks are increasingly improving their fraud detection, in particular with the roll out real-time checks in line with regulation to ensure the company name matches the bank account information before payment can be made. According to Lloyds, the name-checking fraud prevention system has already reduced bank transfer scams by 31% in an update posted on the financial news website, This is Money.

As well as scams on the internet, a lot of people can be targeted through SMS. The criminals will disguise themselves as a well-known company, such as a phone provider stating that a payment has been missed and you are able to pay by clicking the link. 

Don't click on links

Unless you are 100% confident that the email is from a reputable source do not click any links as you may be redirected to fake websites and prompted to make online card payments, as this can often lead to debit and credit cards being cloned.

If you trust the site and can see the https and padlock symbol in your address bar then it will most likely be safe. Always check the spellings, sometimes scammers simply add an extra character to the URL which can often go unnoticed.

Over the phone scams

Another thing to consider is fraudulent telephone calls. If you receive a call from your bank ask for their name, extension number and the department they are calling from and call them back from the number on the back of your debit card or listed in your online banking. All banks will happily accept you doing this to ensure the safety of your personal information.

Again, if you have people calling pressuring you to make a payment over the phone, call them back on the numbers you hold if you really have to make the payment this way. 

Keeping safe from scams 

If you think someone is trying to scam you or your business, there are several obvious things to look out for to see if the person requesting money from you is trustworthy. 

  • If a payment request or HMRC refund email is received check the email it has been sent from before you click any links or make any payments.

  • If you receive an invoice stating a change in bank details, call the organisation with the numbers you hold to confirm this is legitimate

  • Don't allow yourself to be rushed into making payments, this is often when errors can be overlooked!

  • Remember, your bank will never call you asking you to transfer money from one account to another, and they certainly won't ask you for specific information. Again, if you are unsure, call them back.

If you become a victim of fraud

First and foremost, contact your bank, this will allow them to put a stop on any transactions and issue you with new payment cards. Your bank should advise next steps in regards to contacting the police and if necessary the HMRC. 

If you believe to have received a fraudulent request you can also report to Action Fraud online.

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