Barclays issues scams warning to construction SMEs

Dion Dublin

BARCLAYS has issued a warning to the construction and property sector after new data revealed that scams targeting businesses increased by almost a third in January and February when compared with the same period last year.

Impersonation scams were the most commonly used tactic to target businesses in 2020, with figures more than doubling in the second half of the year.

Barclays is now issuing a scams warning to all businesses, but particularly the 26,525 property and construction companies based in Scotland. Nationally, the data reveals that SMEs in this sector made up almost a quarter of all business scams last year. On average, each scam cost property and construction SMEs £4,110.

Barclays has teamed up with ex-Celtic and England footballer and TV presenter Dion Dublin to raise awareness of the dangers of fraud and scams, and the ‘sophisticated’ tactics criminals are using. When he’s not presenting on TV, Dion’s time is spent running his electrical company, Scott Dublin, of which he is a partner.

Dion Dublin said, “I’ve experienced fraudulent activity before, with criminals first trying to take £400 and then £1,600 out of my business account. Offenders know small business owners are time-poor and take advantage of busy schedules to see if they can get away with scamming people. My wife, who is my business partner, spotted the suspicious account activity labelled as tech services and got in touch with the bank right away. We’re now in a routine of checking daily to ensure no one is trying to get hold of our money. Building a good defence against fraudsters requires solid organisation and communication, plus I like to think my football background means I’m able to spot a bad transfer when I see one!”

John Heaver, Barclays head of business banking fraud, said, “Property and construction businesses often display their company details outside or near construction projects they’re working on, making it easier for fraudsters to research and target their scam. SMEs should consider having checks in place to confirm the legitimacy of any new suppliers, or even unexpected changes to existing suppliers, during a job. It’s incredibly important that business owners and their staff are aware of the different type of scams that can occur and remain vigilant at all times. The vast majority of scams could be prevented by taking simple steps such as double checking payment details with a source you know is genuine. I’d encourage SMEs to talk about preventing fraud with their staff, suppliers and clients, however if they are ever in doubt, they should contact their bank for more advice.”

Here’s Dion Dublin’s checklist for SMEs to help build the foundations of scams prevention:

  1. Put on your scams hard hat

You’d never walk on a construction site without a hard hat – likewise, you should never disclose sensitive banking details. If you receive an unexpected call, email or text – whether claiming to be your bank, the police, or a company such as your internet provider – never disclose your banking details or transfer money to another account. Never download any software or give access to your device. Instead, call the person back on a known and trusted number to verify the request.

  1. Research on a tea break

When looking to make purchases from a new seller, take the time to thoroughly research the company, check customer reviews, and try to avoid placing large first time orders. If buying a larger item, try to see it in person (providing it is within government guidelines to do so). Check any documentation and serial numbers carefully to ensure what you are buying is genuine and if there is a legitimate reason why the cost may be lower. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

  1. Be airtight with suppliers

If information about your suppliers is accessible to the public, it may make it easier for fraudsters to target you by intercepting supplier emails and invoices, and replacing the genuine bank account details with their own. Before making a payment to any new banking details, verbally confirm they are correct with the supplier or sender on a number that you know is genuine. Do not call the number listed on the invoice or email containing the payment instructions in case it’s fake.

  1. Another brick in the firewall

If you get an unexpected text message or email asking you to follow a link or open an attachment, use a different method to check is this is a genuine request first before clicking on anything. Make sure your corporate infrastructure is secure and your online systems up to date and protected with robust anti-virus and firewall software.

  1. Is this really your boss?

Have you ever received an email from your CEO or Financial Director asking you to make an urgent payment? Fraudsters are able to impersonate emails and signatures to make them appear to be from the people you work with. Pause, pick up the phone and verbally confirm with your colleague that the payment request is genuine. If it really was them, they won’t mind you double checking.