Lack of care when handling company payment orders can cost you money

Not only private individuals but also businesses are vulnerable to financial scams. Lithuanian companies are not bypassed by a globally popular method of scam - imitation of email correspondence between business partners. Scammers send emails about allegedly updated payment details or invoices with their bank account specified to pay for services or goods.

Robertas, the manager of a small service company, has nearly fell for the scam. He says he has implemented a large-scale project that involved intensive procurement of services and products from different suppliers. In a short space of time, a number of invoices arrived from various companies. As usual, the businessman would accept them and carry out money transfers himself, just handing over the documents to the accountant to prepare the reports. 

The man would store the invoices that had arrived by email in a separate folder and then pay them all in a row. Upon starting payment Robertas was surprised to see that one of the advance invoices looked a bit strange, with errors in the Lithuanian destination text. He thought he would contact his partners a little later and ask them to correct it to make sure everything was in order.

"The only thing that saved us from the scammers was that I had handed all the invoices to the accountant at the same time to prepare the reports. Coincidentally, I received a call from my accountant about the incorrect invoice before making the transfer: it turned out that the account number specified in the invoice was not the same as the one indicated in our contract with the company. I ascertained the importance of accurateness and close cooperation with colleagues once again," says the businessman.

Lesson learnt: information must be checked

The person who has almost fallen victim to a scam due to his rushing, says he has learnt a lesson that all the invoices are worth checking several times. The data needs to be checked against the contract or, if there is no one, the invoicing partner needs to be contacted by phone to check.

The businessman admits that fraudulent invoices are particularly frequent in the company's email, which is published on the Internet, but there have been no problems before the big project. Yet, the higher than normal volume of work and the rush have nearly caused the businessman to pay a fake invoice sent by scammers. From now on, Robertas's company uses a different email address for sending invoices and communication with partners, which is not made public and is only given to those partners with whom cooperation is agreed.

Security experts note that scammers often target businesses that ship goods or acquire services from other countries. There are cases where scammers falsify an invoice by specifying their own account number and send it to the email address of the partners. If the buying company does not notice the changed account number, the invoice is usually paid and the money goes to the scammers.

It is therefore best to agree with the new partners on the process of communication with each other in the event of a change of account number or other details, and that this information should be coordinated separately, before the payment document is sent, through official channels, i.e. social networks or chat apps should not be used.

It is a good idea to introduce a four-eyes principle, whereby at least two people, rather than just one, check documents and approve payments from the set amount, thus reducing the chance of any errors.

Expert's comment: "Vigilance and speed are essential for prevention"

Elčin Mamedov, Coordinator of the Tactical Cooperation Group at Centre of Excellence in Anti-Money Laundering

The analysis of scam cases performed in 2021 revealed that this particular type of scam was one of the most popular, accounting for a third of the total amount of money swindled. To avoid scams, it is essential that you do not lose your guard when you receive any invoices for payment and that you check the information on them carefully. It is important to check the details of the business partner, the account number and the email address from which the invoice was received. Once you have made a payment and realise that you have become the victim of a scam, it is important to report it to your financial institution and contact the police as soon as possible.

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