Fraud

Fraudulent Emails and Purchase Orders

We want to alert you to a fraud scam that is targeting existing and potential Suppliers of goods to the University, this fraud is also other Universities and businesses in the UK. Please take the necessary precautions so that you are not a victim of this scam.

While Aston University cannot prevent this fraudulent activity we are reporting fraudulent activity to Action Fraud. The fraud scam involves requests for product quotations and orders which claim to originate from the University but are in fact fraudulent.

How the Scam Operates

The Supplier will receive an email requesting a quotation for goods or services. Once the quotation has been provided, a purchase order is emailed to the Supplier that bears resemblance to an authentic University purchase order. The purchase order typically instructs delivery to an address not affiliated with the University. Other Universities have experienced that a purchase order may be accompanied by a Credit Reference Sheet which is a fraudulent document. Aston University does not issue a 'Credit Reference Sheet'. After shipping the item/s, the Supplier will not receive payment and is unable to retrieve the shipped products.

How to identify fraudulent emails and POs

The most common identifiers of fraudulent activity are provided below but are not limited to:

  • Incorrect domain name used to send emails and purchase orders. A valid University email address will always end in @aston.ac.uk. Hovering over the email address may reveal the originator’s email address, if different from the University's valid email then this is most likely a fraudulent email. Some examples of incorrect domains being used are astonac.co.uk, astonac-edu.co.uk, astonac-procurement.co.uk but other domains are being used;
  • The delivery address is not a University address. A genuine University purchase order will request delivery to Dept of XXXXX, Aston Triangle, Birmingham, B4 7ET. Fraudulent addresses will usually be a domestic residence or a self-storage facility.
  • Poorly written email with grammatical errors and weak sentence structures.
  • Use of a false or unknown contact from the University. Fraudulent and scam emails will generally not use legitimate University staff names. If requests for quotations or purchase orders are received from a new University contact that raises your suspicion then please email purchasing@aston.ac.uk to verify the validity of the request. Do not contact the name/number used on the email/purchase order.
  • The sender's website links are not authentic to the University.
  • Phone numbers not associated with the University. A valid University phone number starts with 0121 204 XXXX
  • Unusually large quantities are requested.
  • Request to rush delivery overnight.

What to do if you suspect fraudulent activity

Email purchasing@aston.ac.uk to verify the validity of the request. Please include any emails and documents you have received that relate to the enquiry. The Procurement Team will respond to your email to confirm the validity of the request. The incident should be reported to Action Fraud as an attempted fraud against your organisation.

If you are concerned about cyber crime or wish to report an incident, please visit the Action Fraud web page or contact them on 0300 123 2040. Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime. You should report fraud to Action Fraud if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cyber crime.

Please do not attempt to call any phone numbers contained within the fraudulent emails that purport to be University numbers as they will attract a service charge. Typically these number begin with 0843 / 0844 / 0845 / 070.

What the University is doing

Raising awareness to existing and potential suppliers that may be subject to this type of fraudulent activity in order to provide basic guidance on how to deal with it. Requesting that domain names used for fraudulent activity are closed. Reporting all instances of known fraudulent activity to Action Fraud and compiling evidence for all reported incidents.

If you require further information please contact a member of the University Procurement Team at purchasing@aston.ac.uk.