If someone knocks on your door and asks to see your arse, do not show them your arse. This is a scam”.
So goes an email that’s been doing the rounds for a few years. It pokes fun at the never ending round of scam mails and ‘watch out there’s a scammer about’ mails. But this year, particularly in the last few weeks I’ve been hearing lots more about real scams.
ISME issued some findings that showed that over 60% of Irish companies had experienced some form of interaction with someone trying to part them from their by using nefarious means. This has included fake invoices.
Fake invoices? Surely this doesn’t exist?
Think about it, it’s probably the easiest form of fraud to perpetrate. (And no, I am not advocating that you try it).
As owners or staff in small businesses we’re probably more in tune with our finances than most other companies. For many of us, that day to day knowledge is borne out of a need to know if we can open tomorrow, pay staff or pay suppliers.
Invoice fraud has been a problem for the public sector and large corporations throughout the world for decades. It plays on lack of communication, hierarchy and laziness. And if the ISME survey is to be believed, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t, then there is every possibility that it is happening in Ireland.
How it happens is as follows; the con artist assumes that the large organisation that (s)he is about to invoice has a cheque signing system whereby invoices below a certain level do not need to be authorised by a manager. The con artist issues an invoice for a small amount for a very general service. Often times this invoice will be paid by the accounts payable specialist as they go about their daily work.
So, how does a con artist get rich on a scheme like this?
Hundreds of invoices to hundreds of companies.
You may think that this is implausible. However I have seen an information security company operate a test scam on over 100 companies, as a marketing and business development exercise. Guess what? The companies that unwittingly paid the invoices became the first to sign up as clients of the information security company and there were dozens.
It happens and it is happening everywhere every day.
Financial derring do that wants to part you from your money isn’t always a Spanish lottery win or a kindly man asking you to mind thirty two million dollars for a few weeks. It is everywhere.
Keep an eye on what comes in and you won’t have funds unnecessarily going out.