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Contractors lose £5m as crooks target bank details

Criminals posing as subcontractors have redirected more than £5 million of payments from main contractors into their own bank accounts, H&V News has discovered.

London Metropolitan Police and the Construction Industry Fraud Forum have issued a warning to specialist subcontractors to be vigilant, saying the criminals are still active and the threat they pose is high.

The activity is very similar to cases revealed recently where fraudsters were stealing hundreds of thousands of pounds from clients by pretending to be main contractors.

Met Police detective sergeant Chris Atack told H&V News that 10 firms - a mixture of main contractors and subcontractors - had been hit by the new scam. He said £5.5m had been misdirected. However, attempts to steal over £10m more had failed.

There is no clear pattern to the frauds, which have occurred across the UK. The firms targeted have been different in each instance.

The crime sees fraudsters taking advantage of the BACS payment system by sending letters to contractors’ accounts departments purporting to be from subcontractors. The letters advise the firms that the subcontractors’ bank details have changed.

DS Atack said: “They identify individuals in organisations that will be processing their fake invoices and look at company websites to identify where they should purport to be.”

DS Atack said there was a possibility the scam could even be franchised out to other criminals. “Knowing how criminals operate, they won’t just set a geographical area when they’re making money. In the mind of a fraudster, if a scam is profitable, will he stop using it? The answer is clearly no.”