A Fifth of UK SMBs Can’t Spot Scams

A worrying 17% of the UK’s small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can’t always spot the tell-tale signs of online fraud and scams, according to new data from UK Finance.

The banking industry body has been running its “Can you spot fraud?” quiz for small business owners since last year. Designed in collaboration with Amazon, it takes participants through a series of scam emails and phone calls they might encounter during a busy day in the office.

It’s a highly realistic simulation exercise designed to show how scammers use multiple channels to target their victims, and how pushback from colleagues can make it difficult for some office staff to do the right thing.

Over 7000 respondents have taken the quiz so far, according to UK Finance. Although most were quick to spot impersonation scams where fraudsters pretend to be trusted contacts, one in 10 were apparently not able to spot a procurement scam.

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During the quiz, the participant receives a phone call from a fraudster pretending to be a legitimate supplier, asking to place a large order without going through the official form-filling process.

This kind of exercise is necessary because of the sheer volume of authorised push payment (APP) in the UK today, UK Finance warned. This refers to any scam when a fraudster impersonates a trusted organization or individual and tricks the victim into sending money to an account they control.

UK Finance claimed criminals stole £42.6m through such scams in the first six months of 2023 alone, rising to £239m when consumer losses were added.

It warned that SMBs are an increasingly popular target as their bank accounts hold more money than the average consumer, but have few measures in place to prevent fraud, such as rigorous business processes and employee training.

David Raw, managing director of commercial finance at UK Finance, explained that SMBs are the lifeblood of the UK economy.

“As criminals develop more and more complex ways to break through businesses’ defences, many smaller firms often just don’t have the same security resources as their bigger counterparts. That means they need to be hyper-vigilant,” he added.

“If you own or work for a small business, remember: when you’re making bigger payments, always check the details with your supplier directly through trusted contact routes. You can also do our Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign quiz to get more advice and arm yourself with knowledge for the fight against fraud.”