West Yorkshire Police is warning locally based businesses to be on the watch out for a fraud that is increasing nationally
Mandate fraud, which is also known by its more accurate description of Payment Diversion Fraud, can happen when criminals make minor amendments to an email address, payee details or bank account details to divert payments intended for a legitimate organisation or person to accounts controlled by the fraudster. This may include such small changes that might not be noticed - for example extra dots in an email address or a slightly different spelling.
This fraud usually involves criminals impersonating individuals from legitimate organisations a company does business with - for example a representative from the company that provides stationery.
The more information fraudsters have about an individual or a company, the easier it is to pose as a supplier and make the scam convincing.
DS Jeanette Roberts of the Economic Crime Unit, said:
"Between 2014 and 2015 there was a 66% increase nationally in the mandate fraud reports made to Action Fraud. It is estimated that the annual loss incurred by small to medium sized (SMEs) businesses in Britain due to various forms of mandate fraud is around £9bn with the average amount lost by SMEs per year due to invoice related frauds at £1,658.
"This is an issue we are treating seriously and want businesses to help themselves by taking some easy steps to protect themselves against this type of fraud.
"We would urge businesses to ensure they check all requests to change a supplier's bank details and establish with their suppliers and internal employees the best people to speak to check information about payment details
"It also makes sense to store safely invoices, payment mandates and other sensitive financial documents, for example in a locked cabinet. When stored electronically, access to such files should be restricted to only relevant staff and files and you should also consider encrypting such files.
"When disposing of documents that contain sensitive information, shred them first and regularly check bank statements for any suspicious transactions. If you notice anything unusual, notify your bank immediately."