How the fraudsters stole Christmas

Action Fraud has warned of a recent surge in so-called “CEO fraud” that has resulted in charities losing money intended to buy staff Christmas presents.


The scam involves a fraudster posing as the CEO or another senior person in the charity. They send an email request to a colleague to buy gift cards, which they say will be given to staff for Christmas. But then they request copies of the cards and use the codes to spend on themselves at the charity’s expense.

So, look out for:

  • Unexpected requests from senior staff to make purchases that they haven’t spoken to you about before.
  • Someone putting you under pressure to spend the charity’s money urgently, even if it appears to be someone with authority to do so.
  • Email addresses that look very similar, but are not the same, as your CEO’s or other senior staff.

Make sure you:

  • Contact your colleague by phone or in person to confirm their instructions before authorising any transfers.
  • Always challenge unusual requests and get a second opinion if you are not sure.
  • Share this story with your colleagues so they know what to look out for.

If you would like more information about how to protect your charity from fraud or to discuss a specific matter, please email us at [email protected] or call 020 7551 7777 and ask to speak to Rob Oakley or Mindy Jhittay.

This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of December 14, 2018.