Sarah Lepak BHTA
Sarah Lepak, Head of Policy and Compliance at the British Healthcare Trades Association

The British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) has alerted its members to remain vigilant after at least seven of its members were targeted by scammers.

The alarm was raised after one of the trade association’s stairlift members was contacted by an individual purporting to be a high court enforcement officer.

According to the company, the scammer informed the company that a debt was owed to HRMC and was about to be the subject of a high court writ. The individual claimed he was ringing to give the company the option to trigger a protest and pay the amount owed to the court solicitors.

Worryingly, the scammer was described as highly persuasive, going as far as to impersonate a genuine bailiff, name dropping a genuine solicitor, alongside citing a debt recovery agency which HMRC do use.

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Sarah Lepak, Head of Policy and Compliance at the British Healthcare Trades Association, commented: “This scam was highly targeted and very difficult to spot. Fortunately, our member was particularly observant and recognised that all was not what it seems. However, it is important others in the industry are aware that this type of scam is taking place.

“We would encourage all companies to be extremely cautious when money is being requested from an unfamiliar source and to share with the Association when these scams appear.”

Fortunately, the BHTA confirmed the attempt had been unsuccessful as the stairlift company was certain no debt was owed and no paper had been received. In addition, the scammer requested that the company pay the amount via a bank transfer.

After the scam was flagged to the trade association and circulated among its members, the BHTA says a further six companies confirmed having been approached with the same scam.

Not a new con, HMRC released a statement at the end of 2019 warning that scammers were phoning individuals, posing as County Court bailiffs, High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) and Certificated Enforcement Agents (CEAs).

“We may contact you by phone to discuss a warrant of control and will offer to take debit or credit card payments over the phone,” stated HMRC.

“However, we will never:

  • telephone you to ask for your bank details
  • telephone you to ask you to make a bank transfer using your sort code and account number

“If anyone claiming to be a county court bailiff, an HCEO or CEA calls asking for this information, you should not make any payment and not provide your bank details.”

According to PwC’s latest Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey 2020, almost half of all its business respondents (47 per cent) reported experiencing fraud in the last 24 months, with that number expected to increase significantly.

The organisation notes that fraud is often at its most virulent during downturns and crises – both of which is happening with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Disturbances in normal business processes, controls, and working conditions give malicious actors opportunities to commit fraud, while the chaos and uncertainty of the crisis enable many to rationalise bad behaviour that might otherwise have been checked by ethical codes,” added PwC.

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