Company sues worker who fell for email scam

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Peebles MediaImage source, Google
Image caption,
Glasgow firm Peebles Media has brought the action against a former employee

An office worker who transferred her employer's cash to an online fraudster allegedly ignored a warning telling her she was falling victim to a scam.

Patricia Reilly is said to have received a message from bankers about con artists trying to fool employees that their bosses wanted them to make payments to companies.

She had earlier received a number of email messages which appeared to be from her boss Yvonne Bremner.

But they were sent by an imposter.

Ms Bremner is managing director of Glasgow firm Peebles Media Group, which is suing Mrs Reilly at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

The company is claiming £107,984 from the former employee - the sum outstanding after the bank refunded more than £85,000 of the almost £200,000 stolen.

'Gone apoplectic'

Ms Bremner, 58, claims Mrs Reilly acted negligently.

She told Scotland's highest civil court that Mrs Reilly was not authorised to make payments on behalf of the company.

She also said she never knew Mrs Reilly was able to make payments as she did not have access to the firm's current account.

She added: "If I had known she had been on the banking system, I would have gone apoplectic."

Mrs Reilly, from Bishopbriggs, Dunbartonshire, is alleged to have ticked a box which showed she understood the warning.

The allegations were made on the first day of the legal action.

Mrs Reilly is contesting the action claiming she never received any training from the company in how to spot online fraud.

The court heard Mrs Reilly was working as a credit controller at Peebles Media, which publishes magazines including Scottish Grocer, Home & Interiors Scotland and Tie the Knot Scotland.

'Office gossip'

Ms Bremner said she did not get on with Mrs Reilly and did not share much information with her.

She said: "I didn't particularly trust her. She was the office gossip and that's why she was privy to nothing."

Ms Bremner also said that Mrs Reilly underperformed at her job. Mrs Reilly allegedly did not bother chasing after debtors who continually failed to pay Peebles.

The court heard that in October 2015, Ms Bremner left the office to go on a week's holiday to Tenerife.

Image caption,
The landmark case is being heard at the Court of Session

Ms Bremner said that before she left on 9 October, she told Mrs Reilly and her line manager that the company did not have to make payments to any companies.

The same day, Mrs Reilly received emails from "Yvonne Bremner" requesting that £24,800 be transferred to another company.

Mrs Reilly liaised with her line manager who made an online payment for the amount requested from the firm's account with the Clydesdale Bank.

Three days later she received another email claiming be from Ms Bremner which asked for another online payment of £75,200.

Both Ms Bremner and Mrs Reilly's line manager were on holiday and Mrs Reilly subsequently paid a total of £193,250.

'Ticked box'

Legal papers lodged in court by Peebles's legal team claim that when Mrs Reilly made the payment through the Clydesdale Bank's online facilities, she received the warning about potential scams.

The lawyers claim that Mrs Reilly clicked on a box which indicated that she had read the warning.

In legal papers, Mrs Reilly's lawyers say that it is "not known and not admitted" that she was presented with the warning.

The court heard that the emails that were supposed to have been sent to Yvonne Bremner were discovered to have been sent by a third party.

The discovery was made on her return.

Lawyers for Peebles claim Mrs Reilly's actions were "careless and in breach of the duties, including the duty to exercise reasonable care in the course of the performance of her duties as an employee, which she owed to her employer, the pursuer."

Peebles also claims that had Mrs Reilly fulfilled the duties to which she owed the pursuer, the payments to the fraudster "would never have been made" and the pursuer "would not have suffered the loss, injury and damage" incurred in the fraud.

Lawyers for Mrs Reilly claim that she had not received any training on how to identify online fraud and that the court should dismiss the action.

The hearing, before judge Lord Summers, continues.

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