As a forensic accountant specialising in fraud and crime I am often in the position where I must provide advice concerning fraud prevention. I will naturally talk about why astute businessmen are often the victims being scammed.
Sometimes it is a victim’s greed that allows the fraudster to ply his trade, but more often it is their complacency. I have just read that the barristers at Three Raymond Buildings have been defrauded out of £150,000 (the Times 4 October 2016). Some building work was carried out on the chambers and subsequently an invoice for £150,000 was received an duly paid.
Unfortunately the invoice had been sent by the fraudsters, who had found out about the building work. They must have had inside information, either from the building company or the barristers’ chambers, or they had been trawling through un-shredded rubbish that had been left outside either of these two organisations.
The barristers were clearly not greedy when being scammed, but they might be criticised for being complacent. However, consider how easy it would be for somebody in this situation to be taken in. The invoice was expected, and it was no doubt presented as a professional looking document. Anybody who has a relatively cheap printer these days can produce documents that look as if they had been supplied by a bespoke printing company. We print all our own stationery at Mark Jenner & Co Limited.
Even The Fraud Investigators Can Be Taken In
I remember receiving an email purportedly from eBay at a time when I was doing a bit of buying and selling for my hobby. I enjoyed the process, and was excited when it seemed I was being asked become a “Master Seller”. I responded by clicking on the link and was asked to log back into eBay, something that is normal with this organisation. In doing so I was directed to a page that asked me to confirm my details, including bank accounts etc! I quickly logged out thinking no harm had been done.
Unfortunately, the fraudster now had access to my selling account, and promptly put up the sale of a $4,000 Harley Davidson. I suppose they would have changed the payment details when somebody tried to buy the item. At about the same time as I discovered this, eBay contacted me warning that my site had now been taken down as they suspected somebody was using it for fraudulent purposes. Hats off to eBay, they sorted it out immediately and restored my site with new a password. They even returned the hefty seller fee that had been deducted automatically from my Paypal account. Not only had the fraudster tried to steal about £100 in seller fees from me, he had been using my 100% reputation as a trustworthy eBay seller to sell an expensive (likely non existent Harley Davidson) to another victim.
So nothing was lost in the end, and I had my understanding of cyber fraud enforced. It made a useful anecdote for my fraud prevention talks that I was giving at the time on the Rotary circuit.
The problem is that even if you are not complacent, the fraudster is cunning and can find ways to defraud even the wary and informed. This makes it all the more important to be on guard all the time. The sad thing is that many of these scams are targeted at the elderly, who are less knowledgeable regarding cyber crimes and a lot more trusting than their younger counterparts.