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ACCC Warns Business About $14 Million Scam

The ACCC is putting Australian businesses on alert about payment redirection scams, which cost companies more than $14 million last year.

Payment redirection scams involve emails impersonating a business or its employees, and requesting money – which the legitimate business may really be owed – to be sent to fraudulent accounts. The consumer watchdog says that average losses to redirection scams are already over five times higher in 2021 than in the same period last year.

According to ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard, these scams can hit businesses across a wide range of industries.

Delia Rickard, ACCC.

“Scammers tend to target new or junior employees, or even volunteers, as they are less likely to be familiar with their employer’s finance processes or the types of requests to expect from their supervisors.

“We recommend organisations ensure their staff are well trained in the company’s payment processes and remain aware of payment redirection scams,” she said.

Scammers have been known to hack into legitimate email accounts to intercept legitimate invoices and change the bank details; one criminal made off with $16,500 by sending an employee an invoice with “updated bank details” that pointed to their personal account.

Other times, the scammers will create fake email addresses similar to the real thing in order to impersonate CEOs or other senior managers, or will pose as staff members to steal employee salaries.

According to Rickard, prevention is important, as it can be difficult to recover money lost to redirection scams; staff should be instructed not to deviate from a company’s payment procedure even if the request seems to come from senior executives.

“If you have received a request that creates a sense of urgency, don’t rush. Take the time to consider and check whether an email is real, including by looking carefully at the sender’s email address, before acting on instructions.

“Whenever there is a request to change payment details, always check with the organisation using stored contact details, rather than those in the requesting communication,” she said.

Scam victims are urged to report incidents to their banks, as well as the platforms on which they were scammed, as soon as possible.

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