Figures from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) show that there have been 105 reports of scams relating to coronavirus since 1 February 2020 and total losses have reached £970,000.
We’ve put together some tips concerning how to spot these and protect your business.
1. Fake HMRC emails
Scam emails claiming to be from HMRC are not a new idea. The newest variation usually promises a non-existent tax refund to get you to enter your financial details.
This coronavirus scam says that the government has established a new ‘tax refund programme’ to help the self-employed protect themselves.
HMRC has also highlighted an SMS message they’ve seen that promises a ‘goodwill payment’ from the tax authority.
These messages may look convincing at a glance, but upon closer inspection, they’ll often contain errors, typos and odd phrasing.
HMRC advises that you shouldn’t reply to the email or SMS, or open any links in the message. HMRC will never send email notifications about tax refunds or rebates and you can always contact HMRC if you’re not sure about something you’ve received.
You can also forward a fake email to HMRC to help in their investigations against scams (just make sure you delete it after).
2. Fake communication from local councils
Swansea Trading Standards has issued a warning about a scam message offering residents a payment “as part of its promise to battle COVID 19”.
The link takes you to an official-looking (but fake) gov.uk page that asks you to enter your card details, including your security number.
Again, these messages will usually have typos and errors. You should delete any messages you get like this without clicking on the links.
3. Cyber attacks
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) highlights that organisations of all sizes are now getting to grips with remote working.
So if you have employees and they’re now working at home, you could be facing new cybersecurity challenges.
If you don’t take the right cybersecurity measures, hackers and scammers could get hold of data or password.
The NCSC says that you should create strong passwords and use two-factor authentication (2FA) where possible when setting up new accounts for home working.
You can also use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to let your employees access your systems remotely, and make sure you communicate security risks to staff.
4. Fake investment schemes and trading advice
The FCA reports that “sophisticated, opportunistic” scammers are using the coronavirus pandemic to come up with scams involving pensions transfers and high-return investment opportunities (including investments in crypto assets).
The FCA says you should reject offers that come out of the blue, for example from firms you’ve never heard of or dealt with before.
They also advise that you shouldn’t rush or be pressured into making a decision, or give out personal details. You can check the FCA Register to see whether a firm you’re dealing with is authorised and check the FCA’s warning list to find out whether you’re dealing with scammers.
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