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Stop, Check and Check again – an old-fashioned way to prevent cyber fraud.

Posted: Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Author: David Tuck

It seems every day we are hearing about the latest loss of data, how companies and individuals have been “tricked” into handing over large sums of money and how our personal information is being used without our knowledge.

I am sure that many of these things have always happened, confidence tricksters and “con artists” have been with us for a long time, so why is it happening more frequently now?

Technology has indeed made it easier to communicate and move information around, but unfortunately, this makes it easier for the fraudsters too.

Over the last few months, I have seen a growing number of organisations caught out by such fraudsters. These tend to be smaller businesses where staff know the CEO or Owner and are used to taking informal instruction from them and do not question too much when this happens.

So, what can we do to combat this? One piece of advice I can give is to take an “old fashioned” approach.

This may seem at odds with today’s fast-paced world of technological marvel, but just think, in the past did shops give you something essentially on the promise that you would pay? It would have been interesting to go into a shop and tell the staff that their Manager before going on holiday, said that it would be okay for you to pick up the latest TV for free whilst they were away. And just to prove it, you have an unsigned letter with their name on it. I suspect you would have been politely asked to leave!

But this is essentially what we are seeing today, organisations are paying out large sums of money to individuals, just because they have been told the CEO or Senior Manager has said it is okay. Organisations are learning the hard way that you cannot always believe what you are being told. The very same IT systems that are put in place to speed things up and that you’re encouraged to trust, might not be quite so perfect after all.

Adopting an “old fashioned” approach is one way to combat this. Don’t give anything to anyone until you have spoken to the person who has authorized it, either face to face or on the phone (and of course, you ring them, not vice versa).  Always be suspicious if the authorizing person is conveniently on holiday or not in the office.

Be “old fashioned”, take your time, check and do not be hurried into making a decision. If the person doing the asking in the email is really your CEO, they should appreciate your thoroughness.

And if you are the CEO and have just received a quick phone call from your accounts person while you lie on the beach in the Bahamas, don’t be upset with them for double-checking. That few minutes of your time could probably be the best investment you have ever made. After all, where can you save £100,000 by taking a 2-minute call today?

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