Small businesses should be on the lookout for a new type of scam which involves overseas â€œinvestorsâ€ tricking victims into laundering money, warns the National Fraud Intelligence Bureauâ€™s (NFIB) Proactive Intelligence Team.
The scam starts with an email/phone call from fraudsters overseas who claim they are interested in â€œinvestingâ€ in new start-up companies within the UK.
The fraudsters build trust and over time convince victims that the money they are transferring into their businesses accounts is for â€œinvestmentsâ€. The fraudsters know the limits that will be flagged by each bank and only transfer small amounts at a time to avoid detection.Â
These investments are in fact a vehicle to launder the proceeds of crime into the UK from other scams, including money lost from victims of online dating fraud.Â
Money laundering is a crime and business owners can be jailed. The NFIB team recently interviewed a former convicted businesses owner who said: â€œI donâ€™t know why I was a target. I had a small engineering company which I was trying to get off the ground. The first contact I had was by email from an investment company in the Middle Eastâ€.
â€œThey said that they wanted to invest some capital into my company and they had other business interests in the UK. They only transferred a few thousand pounds at a time so the bank never questioned it.â€Â
Another convicted fraudster who owned a small sales and distribution company said: â€œTurns out I was just a middle man for a fraud. I think any small cash businesses are at risk.â€