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Watch out for ‘fake bosses’

Grace Etheredge 7th Sep 2018 No Comments

Reading Time: 5 minutes

When you get an email telling you that you are entitled to thousands of pounds worth of compensation for an accident that has never happened to you, its fair to say that you’ve been targeted by a scam.

Yet even though most are easy to spot, sometimes scams come in unassuming shapes and disguises.

Impersonation fraud is one of the trickier kinds of scams to see and is on the rise, with small and medium businesses losing an average of £27,000!

Read on to find out how you can stop the scam in its tracks and protect your business from fake bosses.

Fake it ’til you make it?

Will you be targeted?

Fake bosses freeze up employees

How to stay safe


fake it ’til you make it?

BLocks that say fact and fake

Scammers get inventive when their traditional methods are cracked down on and what has become one of the most popular ways to trick people out of their money has turned the old “fake it ’til you make it” saying on its head.

Businesses are sitting targets for scammers and one of the most common ways they use to get inside them is to intercept legitimate email trails and change the beneficiary bank account details.

This makes it particularly difficult to see the scam as, at first glance, emails can appear to be absolutely genuine.

Although emails are not a secure method of communication, they are so often used that this can be quickly forgotten and this is something criminals take advantage of, especially when the message seems to be sent from a trusted contact.

And when you get an email from your boss asking for an official bank transfer, why should you think twice?

Over half (53 per cent) of respondents to a survey conducted by GetSafeOnline say that they have experienced scammers posing as their boss, demonstrating a rise in popularity of CEO impersonation fraud.

A similar number (52 per cent) say they have suffered fraudsters posing as suppliers, with invoice fraud – where a false change in bank account details is sent from a legitimate-looking supplier – also succeeding in tricking companies out of their money.

Scary, huh?


Will you be targeted?


Scammers can smell money like sharks so if it’s your 9 – 5 , the likelihood is your profession will be a target.

According to GetSafeOnline, of those affected by the crime, individuals working in legal roles are the most likely to fall victim and be caught out (19 per cent) due to the high quantity of financial transactions they are involved in, followed by HR professionals (17 per cent), IT workers (17 per cent) and finance companies (16 per cent).

However, finance workers are the scammers’ primary targets, with nearly one in five (19 per cent) of respondents saying they, or someone else in the finance team, had been targeted by them!

With one in twelve (eight per cent) of respondents having fallen victim to impersonation fraud, it is likely that nearly half a million (454,960) small and medium sized businesses in the UK have been impacted by these scams.

According to data from Lloyds Bank there has been a 58 per cent rise in this type of crime in the year to date, however as this is only reported fraud, the true scale of the problem is likely to be much larger.


Fake bosses freeze up employees

Frozen businessman

The fallout from fraud can be huge and it’s not just financial. Respondents revealed that the attacks caused emotional upset too. 15 per cent felt angry that they were targeted, with one in twelve (8 per cent) saying they couldn’t trust people close to them.

The research also found that one in 20 (five per cent) victims of impersonation fraud were so ashamed that they hid their mistake from their team, potentially with the fear of being fired on their mind.

But, hiding a mistake like this may only cause further problems: if the systems have been compromised, then fraudsters may be able to get access to other critical information, or make additional payment requests meaning that losses will increase.

Victims of ‘fake boss’ fraud often face financial consequences: 7 per cent of companies affected said they had experienced financial hardship, with over one in 20 (6 per cent) having to make employees redundant due to the financial impact of the scams.

Remember the old tube stop phrase: See It, Say It, Sorted!


How to stay safe

Cyber security concept image

To raise awareness and educate workers on how to stop scammers, Lloyds Bank has teamed up with Get Safe Online, the UK’s leading source of online safety information.

They have created a video where a team of CEO lookalikes pretend to be the real deal to scam unsuspecting staff out of money. These fraudsters attempt both ‘fake boss’ fraud and invoice fraud.

They demonstrate some of the most common techniques used in impersonation fraud and these include:

  • Changing bank account details – when scammers pose as suppliers and notify you that their bank details have changed and get businesses to make payments to the fake bank account (also known as invoice fraud)
  • Phishing – when fraudsters send emails, texts or voicemails saying that they’re from a legit company to try and get you to reveal personal information
  • Fake emails pretending to be your boss or other senior colleagues – these are emails written to look very similar to genuine emails and they are sent to try and trick the recipient into paying funds to a criminal account

Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online, reassures businesses by saying that you don’t have to have sophisticated tech to spot a scammer.

Here are his top 3 things to do if you get a potentially dodgy email:

  1. “Double check the details: its the most effective way to ward against these fraudsters”.
  2. “Verify any requests for amended payments to an organisation directly using established contact details.”
  3. “Always check with the person you believe sent it by asking in person, phoning them or using a different trusted communication method.”


Want more info on scamming? Head to www.getsafeonline.com for expert advice.


Have you been targeted by a ‘fake boss’ scam? Let us know your experience in the Comments section below!

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Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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