UK Orgs Told to Prepare for New Wave of Brexit-Related Scams

Barclays has warned UK businesses that cyber-criminals will target them with scams relating to changing rules at the end of the Brexit transition period.

The UK remains locked in negotiations about its relationship with the EU from the start of next year, and there is a lack of clarity over the new rules many businesses will be operating under.

The bank urged companies to stay extra vigilant as the deadline for the UK’s full departure from the EU approaches, with fraudsters likely to try and capitalize on this period of uncertainty in a similar way to how it has during the COVID-19 pandemic. It said it is vital that businesses ensure their fraud and scam prevention practices are up-to-date in areas such as receiving unexpected calls, protecting against malicious messages and on confirming the identity of new suppliers.

The warning came as Barclays published new research showing there has been a 20% rise in business scams during the last five months, many of which have exploited the uncertainty posed by COVID-19 . It noted “an uptick in the number and cost of scams to small businesses” as a result.

Impersonation of genuine organizations to gain personal or banking information was the technique most commonly employed by fraudsters according to the analysis, representing 42% of all attempts since January. In the last five months, use of this method went up by 79%.

This was followed by purchase scams, in which victims are tricked into purchasing non-existing products through a fake website. This made up 25% of all fraud attempts this year. In third place was invoice and mandate scams at 18%, whereby suppliers are impersonated in emails that request an update in bank details, potentially leading to large sums of money being transferred into the scammers account.

Jim Winters, Barclays head of fraud, said: “Many businesses across the UK are busy preparing ahead of the Brexit transition deadline. However, they need to be on their guard as fraudsters will often ramp up their efforts during uncertain periods. Business owners, perhaps not used to the new rules following our departure from the EU, may find it more difficult to differentiate between genuine and fake claims.

“It’s important that business owners and their staff are aware of the different type of scams that can occur and if they’re ever in doubt, they should always double check with their bank or a source they know is genuine.”

Commenting on Barclay’s statement, John Dobson, CEO of SmartSearch, said: “Criminals will take advantage of any opportunity, whether it’s the crisis caused by coronavirus, or uncertainty about new rules for businesses when we leave the EU at the end of December.

“The latest data from Barclays really does highlight how crucial it is for businesses to be sure about who they are dealing with when entering into a commercial relationship with another business. The fact is fraudsters are not just posing as individuals or customers looking to use a fake ID to launder money. They are organized and posing as businesses, CEOs, suppliers etc.

“Regulated businesses in the UK not only need to make sure they are compliant with Know Your Customer (KYC) legislation but also Know Your Business (KYB). Otherwise, they are seriously exposed to fraud and also to financial penalties from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).”

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