4 September, 2015
The advent of the internet has presented fraudsters with new ways to trick and scam unsuspecting consumers and companies. Most people are familiar with the “classic” scams, such as those concerning Nigerian princes, free iPods or recently deceased wealthy intestate people sharing your surname, and so know to give these scams a wide berth. However, fraudsters are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and the scams ever more complex, meaning that it is easy for even the most cautious to fall afoul of these scams.
Below are some tips for what to do if you discover that you have been scammed, and how to avoid being scammed in the first place.
What do I do if I discover that I have been scammed?
As soon as you discover that you have fallen victim to a scam, notify the following parties as soon as possible:
The bank from which the money has been transferred. It is sometimes possible for your bank to reverse the transfer before it hits the receiver’s account;
The receiving bank. However, it is most likely that you will require the assistance of other parties (such as solicitors, the police and/or the Embassy – see below) to secure the assistance of the receiving bank; and
The police in your home jurisdiction. They in turn may refer the matter to international crime authorities such as Interpol.
Additionally, in the likely event that the receiving bank is in a different jurisdiction to your own, you should also contact, as a matter of urgency:
The police in the receiving bank’s jurisdiction. Alternatively, you can request your solicitors or the police in your own jurisdiction to make contact; and
The Embassy or Consulate in the jurisdiction of the receiving bank. These diplomats may have connections to high ranking officials within government or banks and may be able to provide assistance in navigating unfamiliar bureaucratic processes (especially in China).
It is advisable to retain solicitors to act as your liaison and coordinate the efforts between the various parties listed above. Additionally, while the police often have powers to freeze a bank account, it is advisable to obtain an urgent civil injunction from a Court in the receiving bank’s jurisdiction to freeze that account yourself. The Courts in many jurisdictions are prepared to deal with urgent matters 24/7 and on extremely short notice.
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE.
If the above steps are taken as soon as possible, there is a chance that your money will be able to be recovered. The fraudsters will often transfer the stolen money through a number of different accounts in quick succession in an attempt to make it difficult to trace. This can and often does frustrate efforts to trace the money and freeze it in its present location.
How do I avoid being scammed in the first place?
Be aware of, and educate your employees about these scams. The UK National Fraud Intelligence Bureau administers the “Action Fraud – National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre” website, which has a comprehensive list of common frauds and the forms they take.
Be vigilant in ensuring that the sender of the email has sent that email – check that the domain name and sender is exactly as you would expect (for example, if an email has been sent from an internal email address, double check that it exactly matches your company’s email convention). Be wary of emails that seem to be sent from familiar people, but from a different domain, often accompanied with justifications like “I’m working from home today” or “this is my personal account”;
Don’t be afraid to be listening to your instincts. If you get an email which seems strange, it probably is. Keep in mind that these modern day scammers are sophisticated, and their emails will be too. The scammers know as well as you do that emails in broken English starting with “Greetings Dear Friend” are unlikely to lure you in;
Double check the content of the email by a medium other than email, especially if that email is asking you to do something out of the ordinary, such as transferring a large sum of money, or money to a new account number in the name of an existing supplier. Pick up the phone, or speak to your regular point of contact face to face to confirm that. Give yourself as much comfort as you need to ensure that things are in order. Remember you are unlikely to be reprimanded for being thorough;
Google it. Many fraudsters recycle their scams – names, bank account details, beneficiaries etc. A quick internet search could be all it takes to reveal the scam; and
Don’t be pressured into circumventing your company’s usual controls, especially when it comes to transferring money. These controls are in place for a reason. Observe your company’s policies concerning payments and authorisations. If you receive an email urging you to disregard these controls, again, check with someone within your organization that the present circumstance is both legitimate and exceptional to warrant such an action.
Jamie Stranger, Partner, Stephenson Harwood