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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Millions lost to online payment scams in six months across West Yorkshire

West Yorkshire Police have issued a caution after more than £2m was lost to fraudsters pretending to be legitimate across West Yorkshire in only six months.

Business owners and people buying or selling properties are being warned about a type of fraud that has seen victims lose over £2m in six months.

Payment Diversion Fraud, also known as Business Email Compromise, usually affects businesses and customers where electronic financial transactions are taking place.

Criminals will contact businesses or customers via email claiming to be from a company that the intended victim has dealings with. They will request a payment to be made often or tell the recipient of a change of bank account details.

Criminals will often create fake e-mail addresses which are very similar to genuine business or customer addressees and send over fake invoices to make it more believable. All of this leads to payments from businesses and customers directly into bank accounts controlled by the criminals.

The scams can have a significant impact on the victims. In West Yorkshire alone a total of £2,182,901 was lost between 5 April 2021 and 3 October 2021.

There were a total of 54 reported cases and the average loss was over £40,000.

Nationally, £143m was reported to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau between June 2020 and July 2021 and it is the third highest high harm fraud type by value.

Detective Inspector Leanne Walker of West Yorkshire Police’s Economic Crime Unit, said:  “We treat all fraud very seriously and dealing with it is a strategic priority.

“As with many types of fraud there are the hidden victims – it is never a ‘victimless crime’. Businesses impacted financially can usually ill-afford such a loss and it can lead to people losing their jobs.

“The criminals will try various tactics to get money and can seem very convincing but as with many types of fraud, by knowing the risks and taking precautions you can make life much harder for them.”

West Yorkshire Police advise a three-step approach to prevent fraud. These are:

STOP: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.

CHALLENGE: Is this person really who they say they are? Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests for your financial or personal details. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

PROTECT: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam, don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed – you are not alone.

You can report payment diversion fraud to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or call West Yorkshire Police on 101.

For more advice visit Action Fraud’s website here.

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