Ease of communication by email is vital to any modern business, but also presents a golden opportunity to fraudsters. A Court of Appeal case in which a small company was devastated by an all-too-simple trick showed why it is so important to employ professionals to ensure your security protocols are up to scratch.
After the company’s email account was hacked, its financial controller received nine emails which appeared to come from its chairman. She failed to notice a discrepancy in the email addresses and authorised a series of payments, totalling £100,000, to five bank accounts. The payments were procured by fraud and, despite extensive efforts to recover the money, the company suffered a loss of £83,000.
The fraud had a profound impact on the company and its employees. One worker had to be made redundant and, although she was an entirely innocent victim, the financial controller felt such a weight of responsibility that she resigned. The loss added to the burden of stress on the company’s managing director, who had a heart attack three months after the fraud and died at the age of 46.
The facts of the case emerged as a man who admitted handling £15,000 of the stolen money appealed against his 30-month prison sentence. After the money made its way into his bank account, he had distributed most of it to others, including his brother and father. Given that he had played no part in the fraud itself, the Court ruled his sentence excessive and reduced it to 13 months.