A new campaign has been launched to raise awareness among business owners and members of the public of the threat of payment diversion fraud (PDF).

Also known as business email compromise or mandate fraud, PDF is when criminals impersonate others and divert payments to bank accounts under their control.

The criminals contact businesses or customers via email addresses very similar to genuine accounts claiming to be from a company they have dealings with and tell the would-be victim of a change of bank details.

As a result, organisations or individuals unknowingly pay money directly to the criminals.

The multi-agency campaign, running until next April, aims to help small and medium sized businesses and home-buyers protect themselves.

So far this year Sussex Police have seen 72 reports of PDF.

Of those, 35 were related to an organisation and the rest to an individual with £828,000 total loss, an average of £11,500 average loss, with 49% in West Sussex, 39% in East Sussex and 13% in Brighton & Hove.

Among the victims was a clothing company which received an email seemingly from a supplier they had worked with for 18 years explaining they had changed their bank details and required payment into the new account.

The victim then credited £17,136 to the bank account provided. Luckily they recognised it was a scam and stopped the payment in time.  

DCI Rob Walker, head of Surrey and Sussex’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “Criminals are experts at impersonating people and will spend hours researching you for their scams.

“Please contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam, don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed and ask yourself – could this be fake? Verify all payments and supplier details directly with the company on a known phone number or in person first.

“Action Fraud contains lots of useful advice and guidance should you need to report a matter as does both the Surrey and Sussex Police websites.

“Fraud can have a devastating effect, do not allow criminals to take your money.”

Take Five to Stop Fraud advice

STOP: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.

CHALLENGE: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests for your financial or personal details. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

PROTECT: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam, don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed – you are not alone.

Report it to Action Fraud online at www.actionfraud.police.uk/reporting-fraud-and-cyber-crime or by calling 0300 123 2040.