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Richard Thompson Insurance Brokers has issued urgent advice to dealers and auctioneers after discovering a pattern of fraud relating to invoices.

Sandy Rich, a director with the insurance firm, said the scam has already cost businesses up to £55,000.

Rich is raising the alarm after talking to a number of contacts in the industry who appear to all have been targeted.

Email accounts of antique dealers and art galleries appear to have been intercepted, and invoices have been doctored replacing the bank details with the details of the scammers information.

The scam means that the attached invoices seem genuine and the companies believe them to be from clients.

Intercepted Emails

Rich said: “This appears to be an extremely sophisticated electronic fraud. People have been falling victim to the scam because they have been expecting invoices for the sums concerned and it has never occurred to them that someone else has intercepted the emails and conned them out of the money.

“The first they find out about it is when the supplier contacts them again for payment, but by then the crooks are long gone.”

Rich is asking businesses to implement new procedures in a three-stage process:

  • Double-check a beneficiary’s sort-code and account number with a verified contact directly by phone – do not use emails as, at this stage, it appears these may be being intercepted in both directions.
  • Send over a small installment first, before sending a major payment, to ensure the payee’s details are correct and that the funds have been received.
  • Consider using ‘Paym’, which requires additional verification of a recipient’s name and account name.