Small businesses have been warned to be on the lookout for a new type of scam which may see them being tricked into laundering money by overseas “investors”
The alert from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau’s (NFIB) Proactive Intelligence Team details how the scam starts with an email/phone call from fraudsters overseas who claim they are interested in “investing” in new start-up companies within the UK.
The fraudsters build trust with their victim, and over time convince them the money they are transferring into their businesses accounts is for “investments”.
As banks have transfer limits which will flag up the movement of large amounts of funds, the fraudsters will only transfer small amounts at a time to avoid detection.
These investments are in fact a vehicle to launder the proceeds of crime into the UK from other scams, including money lost from victims of online dating fraud.
Money laundering is a crime and business owners can be jailed.
The NFIB has issued the following checklist to help small businesses avoid being fooled by this scam:
Be extremely cautious about unsolicited emails or messages from people offering to invest in your business.
Do not share your financial details with anyone you don’t know and trust, particularly if it’s someone that first contacted you via an unsolicited message.
Carry out thorough research on the potential investor before you accept any money. Check to see whether the company is properly registered as a business in the country they operate in. For example, all UK PLC,LTD and LLP businesses are registered with Companies House. You can contact the relevant trading standards authority or local government office to enquire about whether they’ve received any complaints about the company.
If you have been, or suspect you may have been a victim of this scam, report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or using the online reporting tool.