Charities warned not to use cheques

Consultancy Sayer Vincent is warning charities to pay their suppliers electronically after a cheque sent to the organisation was stolen in the post and cashed by fraudsters.

Kate Sayer, a partner at the firm, said it had taken her several months to persuade the banks involved that Sayer Vincent was the injured party after the cheque was paid into an account with a similar name to the consultancy.

“The first answer of insurance companies and banks always seems to be to say ‘we are not liable’,” she said. “You need to have a bit of nous and to kick up a big fuss.”

Numerous charities have had similar difficulties with fraud, according to Sayer. She urged organisations to switch to the Bacs electronic payment system, and urged banks to run more stringent checks on the identities of people opening accounts in the names of charities.

She also cautioned organisations not to publicise their bank details, citing the case of fraudsters who took a charity’s details from its website and set up a standing order made payable to themselves.

“Bizarrely, the fraudster forgot to fill in the amount, so the bank contacted the charity to check how much should be paid,” she said.

She said charities should give out the details only of accounts that receive deposits, keeping confidential the details of those used to make payments.

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