July 9, 2019 9.25 am This story is over 29 months old

Vigilant employee prevents £1.5m fraud against county council

The correspondence to the council looked entirely genuine

Quick thinking by a vigilant employee prevented a major £1.5 million fraud against Lincolnshire County Council.

Scammers tried to falsely change bank account details of a contractor. The council’s IT security blocks most spam and malicious emails, but a more sophisticated one reached finance staff to inform them a supplier had changed its bank account information.

The staff member took time to double check it using an independent phone number and quickly discovered it was fraudulent. The incident was reported to Action Fraud.

The council takes a multi-layered approach to preventing digital scams and doesn’t just rely on one set of safeguards. The risk of fraud taking place is reduced by using technology such as email security, fraud and security policies and staff training.

Lucy Pledge, audit and risk manager at the council, said: “The correspondence to the council looked entirely genuine and identical to official letters from this supplier.

“Because the staff member took the time to double check using an independent phone number -not the one in the letter- they quickly discovered this was fraudulent. The next payment due to be made to this supplier was £1.5m.”

Councillor Alex Maughan, the council’s fraud champion, added: “Bank mandate fraud is just one type of scam that the council is targeted with every day.

“We take all fraud seriously and our staff receive specific training to pick up on anything that may not be genuine. We are not an easy target and continue to make every effort to protect public money.”

The council’s IT systems blocked 7993 malicious emails during May alone, on top of 276,241 emails deemed to be spam.

Fraud against councils can be reported through the confidential hotline on 0800 0853716 or e-mail [email protected]

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