Customers of the wholesaler received emails at the end of last year from scammers using an email address nearly identical to their actual contact at the wholesaler. In one instance, an email attempted to take payment of £27,000. 

betterRetailing contacted the wholesaler’s former employee whose address had been spoofed. He said: “I handed out my business card on various trips and I think this is how the fraudsters got my details.” 

Though no money was taken, customers came close to falling for the wholesale fraud con. “I received calls from customers asking why I wanted money,” he added.

There have previously been five similar instances at the same wholesaler, who claimed it was a widespread issue.

Liviu Arsene, senior e-threat analyst at online security specialist Bit-defender, said: “Retailers should be cautious if they’re asked to transfer large sums of money in an email. Legitimate companies will often have measures in place, such as requiring a passcode.” 

Another technology expert added that older retailers are at more at risk of being targeted by fraudsters. “Retailers should hang up if they receive a cold call or receive any email in broken English,” they advised.

A spokesperson from the wholesaler said: “One of our employees was not implicated and we believe this was fraudulent activity. No retail customers were affected by this. While many companies are impacted by fraudulent use and we can’t stop it from happening, we always recommend all customers contact or visit us if they receive any unusual emails requesting payment to different bank accounts.”

Read more on retailers affected by fraud.