Do it like a (Fake) Boss

The latest figures from Action Fraud reveal that a modern version of the 'Fake Boss' scam led to 964 reports and losses of over £32 million in the last six months.

The scam typically targets employees in finance departments, but don't think that the fraudsters are only attacking big companies, small businesses are actually more likely targets.

How does the 'Fake Boss' scam work


An employee in a company's accounts department receives an email from the boss or senior colleague asking them to make a payment or transfer company funds. The email address and signature both look genuine but the email is fake, sent from a fraudster who hopes to con the unwitting employee to pay out.

Last week, a company I know was defrauded out of £35,000. The email account of one of the Directors was spoofed and an email sent to the Finance Manager requesting a transfer. The Finance Manager tried to check with the Director who was in a meeting, so she asked for confirmation by email and the scammers confirmed!

If you're thinking, "this doesn't apply to me" then think again. How would you react if your boss sent you an email asking you to transfer money to another account in the company's name? Or if an employee or supplier emailed you to say they had moved banks and provide you with their new bank account details?

The weak link with this scam, as with so many others, is the very human desire to believe people we know. But it is a fact today that emails, texts or other messages can easily be faked. So even those that appear to come from trusted sources, simply cannot be trusted.

What can you do to avoid this scam?

This is the same advice I give to avoid all scams. Be cautious.

Any unexpected instruction or message relating to a payment or transfer, including any request that does not fall within your standard processes, should be checked face to face or by phone.

A simple idea...

A friend of mine is a PA to the Managing Director of a small business. She told me recently that the Finance Director had sent all staff an email warning about the rise in this type of 'Fake Boss' scam. "The problem is" she told me, "my boss frequently emails me to arrange payments when he's out of the office... and he's not the sort of person who likes his instructions to be questioned."

Her solution? "We've agreed that if he has to email a payment instruction and I can't call him for any reason, that I should email him back a random word. He will then TEXT me that word plus a secret word we both know, as confirmation that I'm really dealing with him.

This is a simple but clever idea. Whilst it won't suit everyone, it does prove yet again that a little thought and understanding about how fraudsters think and operate, is often the best to stay safe.

For the latest fraud prevention news and tips follow @jamesfreedman


City News - Crime at Kings Cross Underground.

With the latest crime figures on the London Underground network released this week, James was interviewed by City News. When talk turned to pickpockets. of course he couldn’t help himself…

Pickpocket At The Palace

James was delighted to entertain HRH The Prince of Wales, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and their guests again this week.


Thieves love Christmas

It's that time of year when many of us start thinking about doing our Christmas shopping - but police say it's also a time when more us are targeted by thieves.

Following the launch of Operation Blizzard for the Metropolitan Police this week, James appeared on ITV News showing just how to stay safe from pickpockets.

Police enlist a pickpocket!

James was asked to launch Operation Blizzard for the Metropolitan Police with a private performance of his fraud themed show to a specially invited audience of police officers, police partners and business people.

Following the launch James appeared on ITV News showing just how to stay safe from pickpockets.

Following its West End run, the acclaimed ‘Man of Steal’ is now being snapped up by businesses, banks (and now police!) looking for a unique and memorable way to improve fraud awareness among stakeholders and internal teams.

James Freedman with Chief Superintendent Peter Ayling

James Freedman with Chief Superintendent Peter Ayling



James was picking pockets for a City of London Police video last week to highlight the risks of ID fraud. After the shoot, he pointed out how many people were their full names, employers and other personal information! If you wear a badge or pass at work, remember to remove it when you step outside.

Passport Hustle

Can you spot James at ‘work’ in this image?

Can you spot James at ‘work’ in this image?

James has been working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, revealing the secrets of pickpockets in a video campaign aimed at reducing the number of British Passports being stolen each year. To read the full Government Press Release click HERE

The FCO have teamed up with stealth crime expert and 'honest pickpocket' James Freedman, to highlight some of the ways in which you could get hustled for your passport. Be aware of your surroundings and take care of your passport. Be #PassportAware.

Passport pickpockets' brazen tricks laid bare… HERE

Travel advice from the FCO… HERE

Stealing the (breakfast) show

James was on BBC Breakfast today discussing personal security, stealth crime and his West End show with Bill Turnbull & Louise Minchin

James’s West End show MAN OF STEAL exposes how the bad guys really work as he shares a life-time spent studying hustlers, street criminals and con-men. 

For tickets visit Trafalgar Studios website here

New Police Role

James yesterday at Trafalgar Studios

James yesterday at Trafalgar Studios

LATEST NEWS: The current run of 'James Freedman: Man of Steal' will be ending on 20 June. James has been appointed by City of London Police as the UK's first Fraud Prevention Ambassador and in this role will be working with the police to raise awareness of modern stealth and cyber crime across the UK. James plans to stage his one-man show again in the foreseeable future and said, “I am delighted that the show has been so well received and excited by this opportunity to use my skills again for important crime prevention work.

Who knows your PIN?

James popped in to 'This Day Live' yesterday to chat with James Wright about his West End show 'Man of Steal'. You can hear what he said (and see what he stole!) in this video.

The Arts Show - BBC Radio 2

James was a guest on the Arts Show on BBC Radio 2 this week. chatting with Claudia Winkleman about all kinds of cons, cutpurses and how to stay safe. Listen here.

Dip, nick, pinch & swipe!

When James was interviewed by Official London Theatre on Tuesday, he chatted to their unsuspecting reporter for a couple of minutes before they began filming. “I thought it might be more fun.” he said. Watch what happened next..

Man of Steal transfers to the West End

Due to huge demand, JAMES FREEDMAN: MAN OF STEAL transfers to the Trafalgar Studios, following a sell-out season at the Menier Chocolate Factory. 

James Freedman will steal a whole lot more than you might expect and one member of the audience will lose the most valuable thing possible – it could be you! 

Funny and fast-fingered, this unique and extraordinary show MAN OF STEAL exposes how the bad guys really work as James sahares a life-time spent studying hustlers, street criminals and con-men. 

Hailed a genius in his field by Derren Brown, stealth-crime expert James Freedman is the only man to have picked the pockets of the Mayor of London, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Governor of the Bank of England. You can't afford to miss this show!”

For tickets visit Trafalgar Studios website here

Dip School

James was interviewed by Daily Mail reporter Harry Mount recently and gave some tips on staying safe from pickpockets. You can read the whole article here

PM compares James to a politician!

James was appearing on ITV's This Morning today when Prime Minister David Cameron compared him with Alex Salmond.

The Prime Minister had just finished his interview and Phillip Schofield was introducing crime expert James Freedman by saying: "Up next a man who can pinch your wallet, your watch and even your tie without you ever noticing."

To which Mr Cameron can be clearly heard saying: "Who's that Alex Salmond?"

James has yet to receive an apology.

Quest means Business


James was on CNN this evening stealing from and talking with Richard Quest about electronic pickpockets and his theatre show Man of Steal. The shock reveal of Richard's PIN number has been cut from the end of the interview to protect the guilty! Watch here

Midweek musings

James was a guest on 'Midweek' on BBC Radio 4 yesterday. You can catch up with BBC iPlayer here

Thief makes Good

James was on BBC London radio today, chatting with Jo Good about his study of pickpockets and his new one-man show. You can catch up on iPlayer here (from 1:09)

Menier snaps up Man of Steal


We are thrilled to announce that James’ show is coming to London. Here’s the full announcement from the producers:

It has been announced that James Freedman is bringing his show Man of Steal to the Menier Chocolate Factory for six nights between 12th and 27th April 2015.

Freedman is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest pickpocket entertainers.

Funny and fast-fingered, Freedman exposes how the bad guys really work, the show reflecting a life-time spent studying hustlers, street criminals and con-men. Fuelled at an early age by being victim to muggers and further inspired by watching child pickpockets on the streets of Paris, he began a lifelong study of criminology and the psychology of thieves. In his words, “It was then I decided to become a pickpocket myself – only an honest one. I want to educate people to help them avoid becoming victims.”

Hailed a genius in his field by Derren Brown, Freedman is the only man to have picked the pockets of The Mayor of London, The Chancellor and the Governor of the Bank of England. With his hands having been insured for £1m, his expertise is courted by the entertainment industry with his consulting on the film of Les Misérables, and Roman Polanski’s Oliver Twist, the BBC’s Hustle and as The Real Hustle’s ‘pickpocket expert’.

As well as an entertainer, he is in great demand from Police Forces and other security professionals as an advisor, speaker and educator on the subjects of crime prevention, social engineering and fraud – particularly the growing areas of bank card fraud and identity theft. He has recently appeared in a regular slot on the Channel 5’s series Police 5, demonstrating the latest scams and how to avoid them.

Man of Steal is directed and co-written by Edward Hilsum the founder of production company Love Variety.

For more information and to book tickets click here