Former England football star Sol Campbell has joined the fight against small business fraud – after revealing that he fell victim himself.
A quarter of small and medium-sized businesses have been the victim of fraud in the past, according to YouGov research for banking giant Barclays.
Furthermore, the average cost of a successful fraud attempt against firms is just shy of £35,000 – and in two-thirds of cases, the businesses had to cover the costs themselves.
At a recent anti-fraud workshop, Campbell – a former Arsenal and England footballing stalwart – gave a number of small businesses his tips to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters.
Sol trader: This is Money consumer affairs editor Lee Boyce spoke to football legend Sol Campbell about his drive to help SMEs beat the scammers
As part of a drive to arm SMEs with the knowledge to prevent such attacks happening to them, Barclays put on 3,000 workshops last year to warn of the dangers.
This is Money attended the event held at a smart new building in the Stratford Olympic Park and heard how Sol was a victim of fraud after a scammer used underhand tactics.
Sol, who alongside wife Fiona runs bespoke furniture business FBC London, said the fraudster targeted a new personal assistant who had only been working for the pair for a week who subsequently clicked on a phishing e-mail link.
He said: ‘With a rise in online crime, it’s more important than ever that businesses keep an eye on the ball when it comes to cyber security.
‘In business as in football, you have to be strong, versatile and flexible – and as a defender, you need to trust your natural instincts. If an email or call sounds fake, check it.’
He highlighted that as a business expands and more staff are hired, the bigger the threat of fraud is.
This means more should be done by bosses to educate those within the firm to make sure they do not make a mistake and let the fraudsters in.
It is one of the reasons that he teamed up with Barclays.
He adds: ‘Managers should invest time letting staff know about the dangers of scams.
‘As an owner of a small business that has fallen foul of cyber criminals, I’m particularly keen to raise awareness and show fraudsters the red card.’
Sol is no stranger to pressure after ditching Tottenham Hotspur for bitter rivals Arsenal and playing in a number of high-profile games, including scoring in the 2006 Champions League Final. He also won 73 caps for England.
With Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger recently revealing he is leaving at the end of the season we had to mention it being his former boss – and Sol says that Mr Wenger and former vice-chairman David Dein were big reasons for him joining the Gunners.
He also added that Arsenal having such a strong team at the time influenced his decision – and it was a move that paid off, when Arsenal went the season undefeated in the league in 2003-04.
Defensive genius: Sol Campbell is one of the most solid centre backs England has produced
SOL’S TOP TIPS TO HELP FIRMS SHOW FRAUDSTERS A RED CARD
1. Strong defence: The best way to keep attackers out is a strong password. It’s much harder for fraudsters if you use lower and upper case letters, along with numbers and symbols.
2. Build a wall: Protect your computers with anti-virus software, as well as a good firewall and keep software updated regularly. Delete unsolicited emails with links and attachments as these could allow fraudsters to infect your device.
3. Call offside: If something feels wrong speak up and check it. Don’t assume a call, text, email or invoice is genuine, fraudsters can sound convincing. Always check requests using known contact details and never move funds to a ‘safe account’ even if the request appears to have come from your bank or CEO.
4. Pay by the rules: Have a clear procedure for making payments in your firm. Always check email requests to make payments or to change payment instructions by calling a trusted number, not by return email. Unexpected calls, particularly from fraudsters claiming to be from telecoms providers and retailers are on the rise – so make sure you stay alert.
5. Team talk: Every team is only as strong as your weakest link. Boost tactical knowledge and share guidance with your team.
The point Sol makes about the size of a company was also highlighted in the masterclass by Barclays ‘Digital Eagle’ Joe Cooksey.
He said that a large number of successful SME fraud attempts are made via new, inexperienced staff – or deputies, not used to the pressure.
The YouGov data suggests nearly half of SMEs have been targeted by fraudsters.
As This is Money has pointed out in the past, they are a juicy target thanks to large numbers of transactions, money available and number of staff who may have access to authorise payments.
The research reveals that only 54 per cent of victims report fraud to the police, meaning the true scale of the problem may be under-reported.
What could have been: Sol heads Arsenal in front against Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League Final – they went on to lose 2-1
Barclays says it has seen a rise in sophisticated fraud with criminals targeting SMEs.
This includes using ‘social engineering’ with e-mails, phone calls and text messages impersonating people such as suppliers, staff members or even the CEO, tricking victims into giving out information or making payments.
In the workshop, business owners were shown how easy it is to spoof this type of contact via a simple search on Google.
Joe highlighted that fraudsters even target firms when they know the boss is out of office (thanks to automatic replies), typically in summer and Christmas holiday seasons.
Joe also warned on the dangers of public wi-fi – and with many staff members now working remotely or in coffee shops, they must remember that it is easy for fraudsters to ‘scrape’ their data.
Barclays says it has invested more than £18million during the past 24 months on its national Digisafe campaign, which has already engaged five million people.
It claims that overall, it has prevented £857million of potential fraud and scams in the last year.
It hosted webinars attended by almost 7,000 SMEs in 2017 and aims to raise that figure to 30,000 this year as battles the fraudsters.
Ian Rand, chief executive of Barclays Business Banking, said: ‘We’re on a mission to educate all small businesses of the growing risk of cybercrime and fraud.
‘The staggering cost of these crimes can stop a small business from investing in new jobs, training or equipment, in turn boosting local economies.
‘Fraudsters are targeting hard-working entrepreneurs, in some cases impersonating suppliers and staff, intercepting emails and sending fake invoices.’
According to the workshop, phishing, malicious software, impersonation fraud and data theft are the biggest threats to SMES.
However, users themselves are also a big risk.
Data for last year shows that ‘123456’ continued to be the most used password, with ‘football’ coming in at number nine.
It is estimated that the 500 most popular passwords make up 70 per cent of all passwords.
Furthermore, data suggests that for every one million phishing e-mails sent out, 23 are successful.
But SMEs are more likely to be a targeted via spear phishing, which is more personalised and in turn, fall victim.
To beat the fraudsters, Joe says that business owners need to get in their mindset.
He pointed out one case in which an ‘urgent’ payment was requested by what appeared to be their boss.
As the staff member in finance went to transfer the £32,000 they became suspicious.
In the body of the e-mail was the word ‘please’ which was not the tone the staff member was used to – and thus put a stop on the transfer, which turned out to be a fraud attempt.