Preventing fraud - what you need to know

17 January 2017

Fraud and computer misuse are now the most common crimes in this country with a staggering 5.2 million offences committed in the last year alone – and this number is set to rise. This means that for the vast majority of us, it is now a question of ‘when will we be hit’ rather than if, and it is increasingly important for schools to be aware of the risks and to build strong defences.

Typically, this begins with the creation of a risk management strategy that outlines a schools approach to preventing, detecting and responding to fraud. As part of this you need to understand how much loss your school is prepared to accept and then put in place appropriate policies, procedures and controls to manage the risk and keep it within acceptable limits. Helpfully, the Education Funding Agency (EFA) has an anti-fraud checklist to help your review your fraud arrangements.

Preventing fraud should be a priority for all schools. It is often cheaper to stop fraud from happening in the first place than to deal with the consequences of inaction later. Having a good general awareness of common scams and how they might affect your school is an important first step towards this. Encourage fraud awareness and understanding throughout your school and make it easy for staff to do the right thing and to report any concerns they may have: they are often the first to spot that something is amiss. 

Common scams

Fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated methods to target potential victims. Last year there were over 16,000 phishing websites trying to trick bank customers into disclosing their bank details, and banking malware now accounts for just over 40 percent of recorded malware infections.

Two scams currently affecting many organisations are invoice fraud (where a fraudster pretends to be a genuine supplier and asks you to change their bank account details) and CEO fraud (where a fraudster poses as the chief executive or chief financial officer and emails staff asking for an urgent bank transfer to be made).  

Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, regularly issues fraud alerts to highlight current scams affecting people and organisations in the UK. So too, does the EFA and the national Take Five campaign to stop financial fraud. 

Responding to fraud

When fraud does strike, your school should know who will do what, and when. It is important to act quickly to:

  • reduce further losses
  • increase the chances of recovering your money
  • keep all your legal options open, and
  • protect your reputation.   

You must also report any instances of fraud exceeding £5,000 in each financial year (either individually or cumulatively) to the EFA, as well as any unusual or systematic fraud regardless of value. Fraud should also be reported to Action Fraud. 

Remember fighting fraud is a job for everyone.

Mia Campbell – Fraud Advisory Panel

Download the full report for your copy of our anti-fraud checklist.