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A local governing body has acknowledged falling prey to a scam amounting to £52,000 and issued a caution that there might be an increase in council tax as a consequence. West Suffolk Council admitted that it had been deceived, equivalent to a 0.5% rise in council tax. The scam, characterized as "complex," involved fraudsters infiltrating suppliers' email systems to dispatch fraudulent emails to customers, including the council. Diane Hind, the Labour cabinet member for resources, remarked that this was a "prevalent" crime that was "very hard to solve."

The so-called mandate fraud was disclosed during a Performance and Audit Scrutiny Committee meeting on Thursday. Measures were reportedly implemented to prevent similar incidents in the future, as reported by the Local Democracy Reporting Service. Ms. Hind explained, "Although we did catch the fraud and stopped further funds going out, unfortunately, this was after payment had been made."

Efforts were made to communicate with the breached company and the email supplier, alongside reinforcing internal practices. Ms. Hind emphasized the difficulty of solving and prosecuting such prevalent crimes, calling for a greater national focus on addressing them. The meeting highlighted that the £52,000 loss might translate to a 0.5% council tax increase for the upcoming financial year.

Nick Clarke, a Conservative councillor, expressed displeasure at allocating 0.5% of the raise to cover the aftermath of the fraud, acknowledging the sophistication of the fraudsters but emphasizing the substantial amount involved. Despite this, he acknowledged that even well-run organizations could fall victim to such events. Council leader Cliff Waterman reassured residents that the scam, coupled with the recent cancellation of the Western Way leisure center project and other cost-saving measures, would have minimal impact on services and council tax.
 
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