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.

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