Irish firms were warned today to be wary of an upsurge in business scams during the summer holidays.
A survey by the Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) found that 66% of businesses questioned were targeted over the last 12 months.
Fraudsters are believed to increase their attempts to lure companies into scams during the holiday period when senior staff may be on leave.
The most common cons peddled by criminals targeting small businesses included offers from overseas, access to international business directories, and the use of so-called phishing techniques to obtain sensitive financial information over the internet.
ISME chief executive Mark Fielding said his association received an increased number of calls over recent weeks about scams relating to bank accounts, business directories and the Revenue Commissioners.
“The unsolicited correspondence in relation to non-existent professional guides and Internet directories are proving to be particularly problematic and in the last couple of weeks numerous companies across the country have received invoices from companies seeking payment for entry in an international directory of which the company management were not aware,” he said.
The ISME estimated criminal activities had the potential to cost millions unless businesses put in place policies to prevent new and intricate methods to ’rip off’ unsuspecting companies.
Mr Fielding added: “The incidence of these scams increases during the summer holidays, as fraudsters are aware that, in many cases, senior management may be on annual holidays, leaving more junior staff to take decisions.
“Some ’update only’ requests being sought by directories appear to be innocuous, however this can result in a staff member inadvertently signing something, resulting in the company being ostensibly tied to a contract.”
The association recommended:
* All invoices are checked carefully – especially those coming from abroad or from unknown suppliers. If in doubt about, call the company for further details.
* Check the document for small print and read it. Nominate one or two senior staff who must sign all documentation being sent to third parties in relation to directories.
* Ensure all signatories within the company are fully briefed, and that all staff understand procedures for signing off on information leaving the establishment.
* Note that banks do not request any confidential account information over the internet. Never respond to a request for information.
ISME also recommended that any business being harassed by bogus legal demands for payment for directory entries to contact its helpline on 01 6622755.
Mr Fielding said: “The sophistication, complexity and timing of business scams is a massive concern, costing millions of Euro in addition to the time lost in rectifying the problem.
“Companies need to be more vigilant, particularly during holiday period, to ensure that they are not the next victim of these scam artists, conmen and tricksters.
“It is also imperative that there is an increased recognition by law enforcement agencies of the impact of this type of fraudulent activity on business.”