Responding to COVID-19: insight, support and guidance

CIPFA Counter Fraud Centre calls time on financial fraud


What is the real cost of financial fraud? In monetary terms, £755 million a year is lost to financial fraud in the UK, yet the true cost of fraud cuts much deeper. Many victims cite feeling ‘out of control’ and ‘embarrassed’, with one in four realising almost immediately afterwards that they had made a mistake. Consequently, the CIPFA Counter Fraud Centre is backing a new behaviour change initiative aptly named, Take Five.

Take Five is a national campaign that offers straight-forward and impartial advice to help everyone protect themselves from preventable financial fraud. This includes email deception and phone-based scams as well as online fraud – particularly where criminals impersonate trusted organisations. Led by Financial Fraud Action UK ltd (FFA UK) the national campaign is being delivered with and through a range of partners in the UK payments industry, financial services firms, law enforcement agencies, telecommunication providers, commercial, public and third sector.

So why Take Five? When we listen to the responses of people who have fallen victim to financial fraud a common theme emerges namely, victims frequently feel rushed, hurried and pushed into making a decision quickly. After the event many wish the conversation could have just slowed down. In the same way that children stop, look and listen when crossing a road, adults are being asked to pause, take a moment to reflect and step back from the situation no matter who is asking for information.

Whilst Take Five is a public campaign, the points made also ring true for the workplace. Financial fraud doesn’t just happen at home. Invoice scams and CEO spoofing have recently hit the news headlines and these are genuine scams for people working in both the private and public sector to be aware of. It’s not hard for criminals, for example, to investigate business invoice details (even down to payment dates) and then pose as regular suppliers. If a supplier contacts you to make a formal request for bank account details to be changed, always verify with that supplier using their on-file details. It’s important that everyone inside an organisation is warned of the dangers of invoice fraud, and that everyone knows to always check invoices to identify potentially fraudulent transactions as soon as possible.

In general, whether you are at work or home, if you receive a phone call, text or email asking you to hand over personal or financial information, you need to take a moment to reflect and step back from the situation. At work don’t assume an email or phone call is authentic, even if it appears to be from the CEO. CEO spoofing is on the rise and there have been some major high profile incidents.

Put simply, if you receive an email from your CEO or some other senior member of staff asking you make an urgent payment outside of normal procedures, don’t automatically follow their lead. It’s become very easy for fraudsters to manipulate the characteristics of an email, including the sender address, so that it looks genuine, but when you transfer the money, it goes straight to an account controlled by a criminal. Keep an eye out for any emails that might be written in a different style too usual, and always check any unusual payment requests directly, ideally in person or by telephone, to confirm the instruction is an honest one.

The Take Five campaign highlights some great business advice tips and these are pertinent to the public sector whether you are a counter fraud specialist or not. For example:

  • Never disclose security details such as your PIN or full banking password
  • Don’t assume an email or phone call is authentic
  • Don’t be rushed or pressured into making a decision
  • Listen to your instincts, and
  • Stay in control.

Monetising fraud is growing in popularity abroad and at home, so do not ignore it. At the CIPFA Counter Fraud Centre we offer a range of products and services for counter fraud specialists and those tasked with managing fraud risks. Team training goes a long way towards minimising risk and it’s something we openly encourage. Whilst counter fraud practitioners will recognise the warning signs of fraud, fraudsters do not limit their activity to a single group of people. 

If you are not sure where to start, when it comes to assessing where the fraud risks lie in your own organisation, we have developed a useful tool – the Fraud Risk Wheel. We also offer the CIPFA Certificate in Fraud Risk Management (CFRM) for counter fraud specialists, audit professionals and risk and compliance managers.

Organisations must aim to understand the factors and behaviours which create fraud risks and develop clear mitigation plans. The Wheel  and certificate are designed to help public sector organisations manage their fraud risk process more effectively.

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