SMALL and medium-sized businesses are being warned to beware of scammers after a large number fell victim to cyber attacks.

Hotels and restaurants in particular been put on alert over social engineering and ransomware threats.

Government figures show 48 per cent of small firms and 59 per cent of medium-sized firms suffered a cyber-attack in the past year.

Steve Moulsley, commercial manager at A-Plan insurance at the Triangle, Bournemouth, said many local businesses believe they are too small to be targeted, but that this is not the case.

He said: “This is especially relevant for hotels and restaurants in our area. Theft of client data records is a significant exposure and we’ve had instances where tradespeople have sent invoices which were intercepted by hackers.

“They changed the bank details, so that they received the payment not the client. To be fully covered for this threat, it’s important to select ‘crime’ as an extension to a cyber policy.

“Our experience is that smaller companies and certainly SMEs have a higher risk of being scammed because they don’t have the right safeguards in place and awareness within the business isn’t as high as for larger firms.”

Social engineering sees cyber criminals manipulate people into sending money to bogus accounts or into divulging confidential information.

Ransomware attacks involve criminals stealing or deleting data and demanding a ransom to return it.

The Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2022 was published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

It showed that only 43 per cent of businesses are insured against cyber security risks, only five per cent have specific cyber insurance and just 17 per cent have held staff awareness training of cyber risk in the last 12 months.

Mr Moulsley said: “One of the biggest benefits of cyber insurance is not financial recompense for an attack but the provision of expert support in breach recovery.

“This is especially important after a ransom attack when a business has been told by a cybercriminal ‘we’re going to delete all your data unless you pay a ransom’.

“2021 was the most costly and dangerous year on record for ransomware attacks, with an estimated 714million attempts over the course of a year in the UK. That’s a 134 per cent increase compared to 2020. So, local businesses, however small, should be aware.”