As part of the scam, which has been around for two or three years, fraudsters call restaurants, posing as bank staff, and claim there is a problem with their card payment system, asking managers to redirect any card payment to a certain phone number.
When the restaurant calls said number, the scammers ask to speak to the customer and take them through their security questions. After getting the customer’s security details, the fraudsters tell the restaurants it is safe to conclude the transaction.
They then call the customer’s bank posing as them and try to transfer money into their own account using the security details just obtained.
Katy Worobec, director of FFA, said: "It's important that restaurant owners are alert. Fraudsters can sound very professional – don't be fooled.
"If you receive any calls from your bank claiming there is a problem with payments, make sure you phone them on an established number to confirm the request is genuine. In addition, always wait five minutes to ensure the line is clear, as fraudsters will sometimes try to stay on the phone line and pretend to be your bank."
Restaurants in London's West End, as well as Twickenham and Canary Wharf, have recently been targeted by the scammers. “We have noticed an upsurge in the past six weeks, which is why we issued a warning,” an FFA spokesperson told BigHospitality.
The spokesperson added that restaurants should make sure all staff are aware of the scam and know how to deal with it.
“Staff should be prepared to look out for anything suspicious. It is highly unusual for a restaurant’s bank to ask to speak directly to customers. They should be prepared to challenge the person on the phone and ask questions to determine the caller’s authenticity.
Restaurants are increasingly having to offer card payments to customers who carry smaller and smaller amounts of cash with them.
Independents have been urged to make the switch or risk losing out to chains, but FFA’s warning is a reminder that cashless payments come with risks.
Read BigHospitality’s Ask the Experts on how to ensure cashless payments are secure.