NHS Counter Fraud Authority alert

Published: 1 August 2018

Please note the following alert from the NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA)

Suppliers that provide items such as equipment, consumables and medicines to NHS organisations are being contacted by unknown persons/third parties claiming to be employed or part of an NHS organisation (e.g. they claim to be working in the procurement team) and placing an order on behalf of the NHS organisation.

We are aware that one supplier has already been defrauded of around £62,000 worth of medical equipment before the fraud was discovered. Another supplier has been defrauded of around £25,000.

How the fraud operates:

A supplier is contacted via email and asked to provide quotations. They are also asked to confirm their settlement terms, i.e. whether they accept the standard 30 day payment terms after receipt of invoice. Many of the orders exceed £50,000 and are followed up with official looking purchase orders using the NHS logos, fictitious names, reference numbers and signatures. The expectation is that this order will slip through the system and the NHS organisation could end up paying for the goods.

Recently, there have been attempts to obtain goods in this way. The delivery addresses are non-NHS locations, such as business parks or warehouses. Due to the unusual delivery addresses, some suppliers have contacted the NHS organisation purchasing teams directly and have been advised of the fraud prior to the goods being shipped.

What to look out for:

  • Check whether the correct email addresses are being used (i.e. a genuine NHS email address). They should be alert to suspicious looking email addresses and seek confirmation from the NHS organisation. Hover over or right-click an email address to check the properties. Genuine NHS emails normally end with “.nhs.uk” and do not contain “.com” or “.org”.
  • Check the general appearance of the email, such as greetings used (e.g. using generic Dear Sir/Madam rather than a named individual), spelling, wording/grammar, design or image quality.
  • Undertake due diligence checks when purchase orders are received from a new contact. If you are suspicious, contact an established point of contact in the NHS organisation (i.e. an established contact in the procurement team).
  • Check whether the delivery address on the purchase order is an NHS address. Fraudulent addresses will typically be a different address to the NHS organisation such as a domestic address, self-storage facility or unknown location/warehouse in the UK or overseas.
  • Be wary of any later requests for changes or redirections to the delivery address. This should be validated by an established point of contact from the named NHS organisation.
  • Ensure suspicious orders are verified with the relevant nominated individuals at the NHS organisation before accepting any orders. Do not use the contact details shown on suspicious emails.
  • Set up a spam filter with the fraudulent email address that is being used so future and current communications can be monitored. This should be done with the help of the IT department.
  • If in doubt do not process payments until you are satisfied that you are dealing with genuine NHS staff.