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Tuesday 14th April 2020 Steven Porter 

COVID-19:  Practical tips to avoid scams during the Coronavirus outbreak

In these extraordinary times, with most of us in service industries working remotely, it is inevitable that the security measures that we have had in place will be compromised.

Unfortunately, scammers and fraudsters will be very aware of the opportunities that have arisen as a result of the lack of personal contact as well as the need of most to conduct as much business as possible.

PRACTICAL TIPS TO HELP MITIGATE RISK

Here are a few tips that may help in mitigating the risk in fraudsters taking advantage of the opportunities that may otherwise arise:-

1. ASK QUESTIONS:

If you are contacted by someone you have not dealt with before, check how they have connected to you. As an example, we were contacted by an individual in the last few days who asked us to act for his business in making a large loan to a property developer. The proposed fee we would receive was significant. When quizzed as to why he had contacted us he said that he had obtained our details from the Law Society. This aroused suspicions because in this scenario one would expect the contact having been made by recommendation.

He was also requested to confirm his company’s website address which when viewed was extremely basic.

When asked how his company raised the funds the picture presented was unintelligible with lots banking jargon used.

It became apparent, after asking further pertinent questions that what was being proposed was most likely an advance fee fraud where the borrower pays a large arrangement fee in advance of getting a loan but having paid the fee the lender then disappears without any loan being made so that the borrower loses the fee paid in advance.

The caller was asked to send an email setting out the details of what was proposed. Suffice to say no email materialised.

The point here is very simple. Do not be tempted to get involved in a matter simply because of the size of the fee and do not lower your guard where you are being asked to do something which does not make business sense.

2. SENDING MONIES:

If you are sending money to another account check with the recipient by telephone that the account details you have received from the payee are correct. You should also not use the telephone number that is given to you on the same communication upon which you have received the account details but try to use another telephone number form the previous communication.

3. ID CHECKS:

This is undoubtedly a challenge because there is no getting away from the position that you will not have sight of the original documents, especially where the ID is from someone you have not dealt with previously and is not in a position to have their ID verified by a third party.

In these circumstances we would suggest the following:-

(i) Have a copy of the ID documents that you would normally receive emailed to you and check them carefully (e.g., if a passport, ensure it is not out date);

(ii) Try to obtain additional pieces of ID (i.e. if the client has both a passport and a picture driving licence, ask them to send both);

(iii) Arrange a video call with the client where they can show on the video call the documents, copies of which they have forwarded to you and check them against the copies provided to you;

(iv) If the person is employed, get the details of their employer with a view to obtaining employer verification of their ID. In any event, try to obtain verification of the person’s ID from a third party professional by video call.

This list is not exhaustive and no doubt others have further innovative ways of checking identity.

Unfortunately, even if all the steps are taken as outlined, this will not prevent a skilled fraudster from circumventing the ID requirements.

In this scenario, it is essential that both you and your staff are constantly reminded of the requirement to be particularly vigilant when checking ID

Please contact Steven Porter, Partner by email sporter@jpclaw.co.uk / telephone: 020 7644 6091 or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Disclaimer

All articles on this website do not necessarily cover every aspect of a topic and are designed for information purposes. Reliance should not be placed on their contents without specific legal and financial advice first being taken.

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