Businesses warned of new spoof email scam

email scam illustration

Scammers are posing as senior personnel to convince employees to transfer money from businesses, according to a new report from Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK).

The scam involves criminals emailing members of staff in companies’ finance departments, posing as finance directors, chief executives, or other senior colleagues.

Fraudsters use software to make the emails convincing, including mimicking the sender’s address. The spoof emails can look identical to genuine ones within the recipient’s mailbox. In some cases, fraudsters have also hacked the genuine email accounts of senior staff to send requests for money.

The emails request urgent payments that don’t follow standard procedures, attempting to trick workers into making payments to the scammers.

FFA UK is warning employees to exercise caution, and check unusual payment requests directly, either in person or by phone. Emailing to confirm payments is not reliable as the account may have been compromised.

Companies should also establish procedures for requesting and making payments, and ensure passwords are robust.

Katy Worobec, director of Financial Fraud Action UK, said: “Fraudsters will do all they can to make these scam emails look genuine, so it’s important for businesses to be alert.

“While an urgent request from the boss might naturally prompt a swift response, it should in fact be a warning sign of a potential scam. That’s why it’s vital that finance teams carefully check any unusual demands for payment through an alternative method, such as over the phone or face to face, before making the payment.”

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There is also a new (to me) version of the personal tax refund scam that I received today. Very official looking email complete with logos and genuine looking HMRC identifications; no errors of grammar or whatsoever. It indicated that a long term review of past tax returns had revealed an error in my favour (£364.38). Payment would be made direct to my bank account in next couple of weeks. However to this end would i confirm account details (including card number!). The normal HMRC 'phone line was not applicable in this matter and I should only write if payment not received after four weeks. It was the latter three points that alerted me plus fact that only a few days prior I had received letter advising that I owed a small sum from last tax year.
I have advised Age Concern and Trading Standards locally as they have a joint "scam watch" initiative. - J H Collins