Australian businesses lost more than $10 million to false billing on 2019, and in February of this year, $805,966 has been reportedly paid to false bills, with email, by far, the most common way money was lost, according to Scamwatch statistics.

These attacks are not a new phenomenon, nor are they likely to go away anytime soon, which means businesses need to proactively prepare themselves to avoid, counter, or intercept these scams, according to Upstream.

Upstream CEO, Scott Crosby said as businesses increasingly move towards digital solutions, they also need to consider measures to protect the company from falling victim to invoice scams.

“Although strong security is essential, businesses also need to consider other management solutions to minimise the risk of staff paying false invoices or giving away company details to illicit organisations.”

Automated invoice management processes can help companies be better prepared to identify and handle a scam attempt, according to Crosby.

“Automated accounts payable solutions cross-reference previous invoices in the database and flag any discrepancies, such as different bank account details, immediately. These instances are then flagged and brought to the attention of staff to manually review and approve the suspect invoice before it is paid,” he said.

Upstream has identified three ways automated management solutions help protect businesses from falling victim to scams:

1. Detecting fake invoices

Distinguishing between a fake invoice and a real one can be difficult, with fake invoices almost exactly replicating an original. This makes it easy for busy administrative staff to overlook tell-tale signs of a fake; sometimes those signs can be extremely subtle. Automated invoice processing will pick up on even the smallest of red flags, like variations between website addresses or email addresses. Manual approval is then required to process payments where such discrepancies are identified, which minimises the risk of paying a fake invoice.

2. Detecting phishing attempts  

It is common for criminals to impersonate a person or business that their target already has a relationship with. They send ‘new’ bank details and advise the business to pay all future invoices into that account, according to Scamwatch. The money is deposited into the scammers’ account while the business believes it has paid its invoices in full and the legitimate supplier hasn’t received any payment.

Without a proper solution in place, this may go on for months before being discovered and by that time the business may have already lost thousands. Furthermore, supplier relationships could be severely damaged by the perception that the business hasn’t paid for the goods or services it has received.

An automated accounts payable (AP) solution means that any changes or inconsistencies are brought to the attention of staff to double check these changes are correct.

3. Detecting fraudulent ‘offers’

Receiving and being charged for goods that the business did not order is also another common office supply scam. Sometimes this may occur as a ‘special’, or extra products or services that were not ordered. The same approach can be used for renewals, Fair Trading NSW has revealed.

Given this, it’s important for businesses to have on file the company these are with and any other relevant renewal information, such as website domain.

Automating these records means staff can quickly and easily confirm this information. An automated process can also alert staff of upcoming renewals and registrations, which means they won’t miss deadlines for legitimate invoices and can spot scams more easily.

“As cybercrime continues to grow, it’s important that businesses are aware of the high likelihood that they’ll be targeted by scammers. Not having adequate protection measures in place puts companies at risk of becoming easy targets for scammers,” Crosby said.

“Businesses that hesitate to adapt to digital and automated management solutions may find themselves the victim of scammers. For small businesses and medium businesses, losing any amount of money is unacceptable. Proactive preparation and awareness is an effective way for businesses to protect themselves from the growing scourge of scammers.”