Particularly at risk are small businesses who already supply to public bodies, according to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).
‘Mandate fraud’ relies on an existing relationship between a business and the public body, as well as payment terms being agreed and the product being delivered before payment is required.
A business may be contacted by fraudsters on the phone, who spark interest by wanting to place large purchase orders.
The scammers then switch and start to communicate with the businesses via email, consistent with previous dealings with the real public sector body.
The prior working relationship with the real public body means that the victim is less suspicious than they might be, with the fraudsters also keeping all the correspondence, details and logos the same.
Once the purchase terms have been agreed, the fraudsters schedule a delivery to addresses where they can intercept the delivery. In order to cover their tracks and not arouse suspicion they will usually choose closed Fire and Police stations.
The NFIB has issued the following tips to avoid being scammed
Compare email addresses and other details to previous correspondence.
Be aware if there has been a period of time between purchase orders. If in doubt request clarification from an alternatively sourced email address/phone number.
Don’t be afraid to question when you are dealing with a public body representative that you have not previously dealt with.
Don’t be afraid to question when the delivery address differs from the historical ones.
To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud