One of the most notorious incidents of cyber crime to date also stands out for the bare-faced cheek and simplicity of the methods employed. When criminals targeted Austrian aerospace firm FACC, they didn’t bother trying to hack into the company’s IT systems, bring down firewalls with a DDoS attack, or plant malware on its servers to quietly mine sensitive data.
Instead, they simply impersonated CEO Walter Stephan, sending a fake email in his name authorising a junior member of the accounts teams to send $47m to what the email claimed was the bank account of a company Mr Stephan was negotiating to buy. It wasn’t, and the thieves made off with the biggest single haul in cybercrime history.
In our line of work, we come across some colourful characters to say the very least. We all know the stereotypes about the shady circles debt collectors have to move in. Well, while we’re not always keen on the cliches, the truth is in the course of recovering debts, we do have to deal with a motley assortment of fraudsters, conmen, chancers and career criminals, all often operating under the guise of supposedly legitimate business interests.
What we certainly never do is feel any ill will towards anyone we attempt to collect money from. At the end of the day, it is a professional service we provide, to look after the interests of the small business owners, freelancers and contractors who come to us, often at their wits end, to try to get back money that is rightfully theirs. But whoever it is that owes the money, and whatever their reasons for not paying their debts, they are still people.
One of the things suppliers are always advised to do before agreeing to provide any client with goods or services on account is to check their credit rating.
It’s a simple way to increase your own protection against serial defaulters and outright rip-off merchants. If a company or an individual has a good credit score, it means they haven’t got anything in their past that should give you cause for concern about their ability or intention to pay.
Action Fraud are warning UK based consumers and businesses to be aware of a new type of financial scam, fraudsters claiming to be bailiffs are sending SMS messages or making calls to targets across the UK in the hope of pressuring them to pay fictitious debts.
The scam sees victims receive texts by the fraudsters about the fake debt, claiming that they will "attend your address for resolution" if payment of the imaginary debt is not made.
Small and medium sized businesses need to be aware of a rising wave of frauds affecting companies big and small. The current most frequently used type of fraud is often called “Fake CEO Fraud” and we would urge all UK businesses to stay vigilant or potentially stand to lose significant sums.
We recently wrote about a large fraud case involving at least six connected companies. Each of these companies used false accounts, identity theft and fake documents to achieve large amounts of credit. When the goods arrived, they immediately vanished, but they were never paid for. The suppliers were left out of pocket, and the fraudsters disappeared with the proceeds.
Clearly, this was a very large and highly organised fraud, and 6 companies known to be involved have been liquidated. This kind of operation is unusual, but increasing in prevalence and we suspect it will only get worse as more criminals start to hear about it.
The Insolvency Service has just completed an investigation into a network of fraudulent companies in the UK. The implications of this investigation should act as a cautionary tale for anyone that offers credit to their customers.
In this case, scammers used fake financial accounts to acquire goods on credit with suppliers, using fake details and false documents to elevate credit limits artificially. As the scam progressed, these companies acquired goods they had no intention of paying for and unwary suppliers continued to offer credit, because all of the companies looked profitable on paper.
A company called "The Emergency Services (Media Dept) Limited" that falsely claimed to be linked to the emergency services in an attempt to convince small businesses in to placing adverts in its publications has been wound up in the High Court following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.
Telesales operators from the company would cold call small businesses across the country and claim to be "connected" to the Police or other emergency services and then try to sell advertising space in a magazine, with the funds raised allegedly going to support these services. In reality these funds were largely destined for the owners and no one else.
Recently we featured an article on an individual called Phillip Buffett and his "Uber Intelligence" group of companies. This individual came to our attention when we were tasked by two freelancers to pursue unpaid invoices totalling over £10k.
It soon became apparent to us that the individual in question was a known fraudster, with a history of criminality and a penchant for defrauding individuals, businesses and even professional athletes. He was also already serving a seven year ban as a director for his previous frauds.
It's good to know that, when a dodgy dealer makes off with client money and there's no record of where it's gone, they will face prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.
New figures from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills show that the BIS Criminal Enforcement Team achieved 198 successful prosecutions in the 2012-13 financial year.