Fraudsters are 'deliberately' targeting small businesses by tricking them into investing into new companies.
Cheshire Police have issued a warning for people to be aware of the scam, which starts with an email or phone call from overseas crooks who claim they are interested in 'investing' in new start-up companies within the UK.
Over time, the con artists build trust and convince their victims that the money they are transferring into their business accounts is for investments, knowing the limits that will be flagged by each bank and only transferring small amounts at a time to avoid detection.
But these investments are actually a vehicle to launder the proceeds of crime into the UK from other scams, including money lost from victims of online dating fraud.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau team have stressed that money laundering is a crime that can lead to jail, and released some prevention advice for the public.
* Be extremely cautious about unsolicited emails or messages from people offering to invest in your business.
* Do not share your financial details with anyone you don’t know and trust, particularly if it’s someone that first contacted you via an unsolicited message.
* Carry out thorough research on the potential investor before you accept any money. Check to see whether the company is properly registered as a business in the country they operate in. For example, all UK PLC, LTD and LLP businesses are registered with Companies House. You can contact the relevant trading standards authority or local government office to enquire about whether they’ve received any complaints about the company.
* If you have been, or suspect you may have been a victim of this scam, report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk