Small businesses warned of increased risk of cyber scams

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Small and medium businesses in the UK have been warned of increased risk of cyber scams targeting them as latest points out retail and wholesale among the prime targets.

According to UK Finance, British businesses lost £59.2 million to fraudsters in the first half of 2021, an increase of 35 per cent from the year before. 

“Criminals often attempt to impersonate a chief executive, senior manager, or supplier to try and convince staff to make an urgent payment or to change the existing bank account details held on file,” the trade association said.

Meanwhile, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) national vice chair policy and advocacy Martin McTague said, “Small businesses face almost four million cases of cybercrime each year, predominantly focussed on malware and fraudulent payments, so the need for vigilance has never been more important.”

It comes as recent data collected by Barclays has shown that between January and October 2021 the sectors reporting the most cases of SME scams were property and construction (24 per cent), retail and wholesale (18 per cent), business services (15 per cent), and manufacturing and transportation at 12 per cent.

In another new survey conducted for the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, 80 per cent of SMEs said they had received an unsolicited text or email request for money and personal information, and 64 per cent had received unsolicited phone calls.

The survey also found that although 62 per cent of SMEs claim to be more aware of fraud since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, 16 per cent still did not challenge unsolicited phone calls requesting money or personal information.

The Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign urges businesses to remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police.

“Criminals are continually becoming more sophisticated and are experts at impersonating people and suppliers,” Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said.

“Businesses should make it a priority to be wary of any unexpected contact requesting an urgent payment and to be careful with the type of information you share online about your business.”