Victorian small business owners have been scammed out of thousands of dollars by cunning email hackers posing as known clients and suppliers.
Bayswater North-based textile and homeware designer Phoebe Bell, 32, lost $10,000 to hackers who she believed were her Chinese manufacturers.
The Sage and Clare business owner believes scammers intercepted communication between herself and her longstanding supplier three months ago.
When they requested a deposit for an order into a different account to usual, Mrs Bell did not suspect something was amiss because nothing else had changed.
“They said their normal account was under annual auditing so could I send the money to a new account, which is quite common for my suppliers,” she said. “They have made reference to all sorts of things that happened in my business dealings with this supplier.
“It was all very convincing.”
Since posting about the scam on social media, dozens more businesses have come forward, saying they had fallen for the same trick.
“It’s happening across lots of industries — law firms, real estate agencies — any industry where your banking transactions and discussion of bank account details happens over email.”
But she said small businesses like hers were prime targets.
“I’ve had lots of people reach out privately, in businesses like mine or in the rag trade,” she said.
“There’s definitely a certain business that they tend to approach. Large businesses are more aware and they are training their staff … all smaller businesses are certainly at risk.”
The young mother and entrepreneur said her four-year-old business had taken a massive hit and was months behind schedule.
“For us to make that back, that’s a lot of product we have to sell,” she said.
“There is no order so they haven’t made the product. I thought everything was ready to be shipped and it’s not.”
The ACCC has been aware of ‘payment redirection scams’ for some time and have warned businesses to stay vigilant, no matter how legitimate an email seems.
“The scam is often only detected when your regular supplier asks why they have not been paid,” an ACCC spokesman said.
“Ensure your staff are aware of this scam and understand how it works so they can identify it, avoid it and report it.”