Small firms have been warned to watch out for supplier and invoice scams over the Easter period.

It follows a Europol warning about fraudulent new supplier websites and domain names coming online.

FraudSMART, the anti-fraud initiative from the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), said the risk to businesses have increased as more of them have moved their activities online and staff are working remotely due to the Covid-19 emergency.

"The fake domains are fronted by bogus and malicious websites established by fake suppliers and vendors who are taking orders for goods and issuing invoices which unwitting and legitimate businesses are paying for, but the goods never arrive," said BPFI Chief Executive Brian Hayes.

"In addition, we also anticipate an increase in a very sophisticated scam known as invoice redirection  in which a business is approached by somebody pretending to represent one of their existing suppliers or creditors and told that bank account details for the payment of future invoices should be changed or made to a different account."

Mr Hayes said the request may look authentic but when its examined closely it becomes clear that it is a scam. 

The BPFI is urging firms to be extremely cautious when buying products or services from new and untested suppliers.

Requests seeking a change in bank account payment details should be verified in person, not electronically, before the instruction is given.

"Finally, we would advise that businesses immediately report any suspicious activity to their bank and their local garda station," said Mr Hayes.

The BPFI has outlined key advice to businesses to help them avoid supplier invoice scams.

These include:
-  Only ordering goods from an authentic/legitimate source
-  Thoroughly research any new supplier no matter how big or small your order might be
-  Beware of lookalike domain spelling errors in emails and websites addressed
-  Check invoices thoroughly for any irregularities including misspellings and grammatical errors
-  Never issue payment instructions on foot of an email alone
-  If you don't know the company or supplier and the offer is too good to be true, it's definitely a scam

In relation to invoice redirection scams companies should:
-  Verify all requests purporting to be from your creditors
-  Do this by phoning a known contact 
-  If possible set up designated Single Points of Contact with companies to whom you make regular payments
-  Instruct staff responsible for paying invoices to always check them for any irregularities
-  When an invoice is paid send an email to the recipient informing them that payment has been made and to which bank account
-  Fraudsters often look for information regarding contracts and suppliers on an organisation's own website