Sophisticated scams seek to defraud small businesses

Mark Fielding: Said many scams occur during holiday periods.

Irish businesses are at risk of losing millions of euro every year due to sophisticated scams and fraud.

The Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) has warned all businesses of an increase in the number of scams being experienced.

It pointed out that many of these scams have convincing fake email addresses and websites, and international business directory scams are especially prominent.

ISME said that these criminal activities were costing millions and advised SMEs to put in place policies to prevent these new and intricate ‘rip-offs’ of unsuspecting businesses.

It has received an increased number of calls in the last three months from companies who are being inundated with pseudo-requests, spurious invoices and sham deliveries, in the mail or over the internet.

Chief executive of ISME Mark Fielding said many of the scams occur during the holiday periods.

“These scams are particularly prevalent during the holiday periods as fraudsters are aware that, in many cases, senior management may be out of the office, leaving more junior staff to take decisions.”

“This can result in a staff member signing for something that they should not be signing, resulting in the company being tied to a contract. Most of these scams concern invoices for subscriptions for online business directories,” he said.

Mr Fielding said the latest scam involves companies receiving bogus internet correspondence from both the Revenue Commissioners and Taxation Institute requesting certain financial information to process tax rebates.

“Small businesses are already under pressure and can ill-afford to fall victim to these scams, which could send some over the edge. Fraudsters are becoming particularly sophisticated, and are devising new and intricate methods to rip-off unsuspecting companies.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to stamp out this practice; so the only protection for business owners is extreme caution and continuous staff training. Falling prey to a scam attempt is not inevitable for businesses, it can be avoided if the right training and processes are in place,” he said.

Mr Fielding said scamscould cost Irish business millions in lost revenue and time spent rectifying the problem.

“It is imperative that there is an increased recognition by law enforcement agencies of the extent and impact of this fraudulent activity on SME business. For all businesses, ‘When in doubt don’t pay out’ should be the motto, particularly for all suspicious invoices,” he said.


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