We have recently come across reports of members falling victim to bank account scamming or fraud. This sort of fraud is on the rise and many sole traders and self-employed individuals have been targeted. As an author, we urge you to keep a very close eye on payments and statements sent to you by publishers or other companies.
One author reported that payments to him from three different sources never appeared in his bank account. When he pursued the matter, he was told that the payers had each been given authority to make payments to a new account. In another instance a member believed they were paying monies they owed to a third party only to discover they were in fact paying a scammer. In both cases, securing refunds was time consuming and complex.
How to spot that you (or your publisher) might have been scammed
Always be careful before acting on emails or phone calls purporting to be from your bank, even if the caller ID that appears on your phone matches your bank name or number. Scammers can change the number that appears on your screen.
As soon as you receive a royalty statement or know a payment is due (e.g. an instalment of the advance), check that the statement is correct and that the payer has your correct bank details. Note when the payment is to be made and check to ensure that it has been received in your or your agent’s bank account.
Chase immediately if it has not been paid.
We recommend setting up a two-step verification system with your agent or publisher which they must use in the event of a request to change personal or financial details on their system, for instance a letter and a phone call quoting a prearranged identity question.
And of course if you make regular payments to other parties, please be wary of any request to the monies to a different account and ensure (by some means other than email or by going via any contact details supplied with the request to change bank details) that the request is bona fide.
If you have been scammed
If money has been taken from your bank account without permission, whether your identity has been stolen, your card cloned, there is unfamiliar activity on your account or you’ve been the victim of a scam, there are certain steps you should take. See the Money Advice Service and note the three contact links advised in the guidance.
In particular, you should:
- Contact your bank or card provider to alert them. You could be liable for all money lost before you report it.
- Contact Action Fraud to report the crime if you’ve been scammed. This can be done online or by calling 0300 123 2040.
- You can also report financial scams, such as investment fraud, to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
If a scammer has taken money from your own bank account, it will generally be your responsibility to remedy the situation but you may be able to reclaim it if you have taken proper precautions- see the guidance.
If a scammer has diverted money from its originally authorised destination through no fault or negligence of the real recipient, the responsibility generally lies with the payer. Let’s say a publisher or producer sends regular payments to you; then a scammer contacts the publisher/producer, pretending to be you, notifying them of a change of account and asking that future payments should go to ‘your’ new (i.e. the scammer’s) account. As well as enriching the scammer, it means that you have not yourself been paid. Our understanding is that – unless the error was caused by your gross negligence – you are entitled to look to the payer for the money you are still owed. It would be up to the payer to pursue compensation for the fact that it had wrongly sent money to a fake account. Contact us if you are experiencing difficulty in convincing a publisher or other payer to refund you.
Get in early
In practice, taking action to recover monies (from the original payer or, in the payer’s case, from the bank or via the courts) in such an event can be complicated and slow; so it’s in everyone’s interests to spot fake accounts as early as possible and to reduce the risk in the first place.