Could you spot a purchase scam or someone pretending to be us?

Spotting purchase scams can be difficult. Fraudsters will create genuine looking websites but sell fake or non-existent products. It can also be difficult to know who you’re speaking to, and fraudsters will often call businesses like yours claiming to be from your bank. 

Although these threats affect businesses all year round, fraudsters will exploit events like Black Friday or colleagues on holiday to target businesses like yours. Last year we saw an overall increase in purchase scams of 17%, with one case reported every 5 minutes in the UK and £110m paid away to police and bank impersonation scams*.

*Source: UK Finance Annual Report 2023

Red flags you should look out for

Most commonly, purchase scams appear as offers that seem almost ‘too good to be true’. If the goods or service are on offer for an unrealistic price, or the seller requires you to act immediately, then it’s likely a scam.

Another red flag is if the seller will only accept bank transfer as a payment method. If they try to persuade you to go outside of an established and secure payment method, such as paying with a credit card, you should treat it with extreme caution.

With impersonation scams, common approaches include ‘there’s a problem with your account that requires immediate attention’ or ‘we’re investigating suspicious activity, and we need you to move your money to another account’. In these cases, a fraudster is trying to pressure you into acting quickly, without questioning the legitimacy of what they’re saying. This is a red flag; we will NEVER ask you to do this.

You can help protect your business from these threats in three simple steps

A simple and cost-effective online security framework recommended by the National Cyber Security Centre is people, processes, technology. Using this framework can improve your resilience against Black Friday fraudsters, and against most other security threats your business faces.

The people in your business are its first, and often strongest line of defence. Teach them to spot common red flags like the ones we’ve highlighted in this article, and they will stop most purchase scams and bank impersonation attempts at their root. You can use our free resources and interactive webinars to help upskill colleagues on other threats your business will face too.

When mistakes happen, having simple payment and admin processes in your business adds a second layer of defence. These processes are most effective when they are simple and followed by everyone. For example, ensuring two people look over payments above a certain amount before they’re sent.

Technology alone cannot reliably protect a business from common threats like purchase scams. However, it’s great at helping support the people and processes within your business. You can use the technology available in Bankline to set up dual authorisation. Having this active means any payments above an amount you choose must be authorised by two people before they’re sent, adding an extra layer of protection to your business.

Final thoughts

The end of the year can be a challenging time for businesses, with staff on leave, end of year targets, and holiday sales. You should always take the time to research offers, comparing the prices of similar goods in the same condition and stay vigilant for people calling your business pretending to be us.

Finally, make sure the people in your business know what to look out for, establish processes to help catch mistakes, and use technology to support them. You can watch our short video covering how to help make sure you know who you’re paying. Together, we’ll beat the fraudsters.

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