Beware: Protecting businesses from coronavirus related scams

MALICIOUS emails, false government grant phone calls and CEO impersonation scams are among a raft of scams undermining businesses as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. With more remote working and many businesses having to stop or change their trading practices, criminals are seizing the opportunity to target workers who are isolated from colleagues. Popular scams include criminals impersonating government organisations or a senior member of the business in order to put pressure on employees to give out sensitive information or make payments. Staffordshire County Council’s Trading Standards service is now reminding local firms to be aware of such scams and to download, ‘Businesses Against Scams’, a free training resource to help them avoid becoming victim. Leek Rural member, Gill Heath, pictured, cabinet member responsible for Trading Standards at Staffordshire County Council said: “We’ve already seen an increase in the amount of scams targeting members of the public, but we’re now also seeing scams that target businesses too. “These scams come in various forms from emails to telephone calls and the consequences for a business can be devastating. We’re simply asking local companies and their employees to be on their guard and to be vigilant at all times. Don’t click on suspicious emails or attachments, never rush a payment, act cautiously and always challenge.” Four common scams targeting businesses include: * Government grant/tax refund scams – A business is contacted by phone, email or post by government imposters suggesting the business might qualify for a special COVID-19 government grant or a tax refund. Variations on the scheme involve contacts through text messages, social media posts and messages. * Invoice/mandate scams – A business may be contacted out of the blue by someone claiming to be from a regular supplier. They state that their bank account details have changed and will ask you to change the payment details. * CEO impersonation scams - A sophisticated scam that plays on the authority of company directors and senior managers. An employee receives a phone call or email from someone claiming to be a senior member of staff – they ask for an urgent payment to a new account and instil a sense of panic. Scammers may even hack a staff email account or use spoofing software to appear genuine. * Tech support scams – With more people working remotely and IT systems under pressure, criminals may impersonate well-known companies and offer to repair devices. Criminals are trying to gain computer access or get hold of passwords and login details. Once they have access, criminals can search the hard drive for valuable information. Businesses who think they have been the victim of a scam should contact their bank immediately and report any suspicious activity to Action Fraud at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk Businesses can sign up and access the online training at www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/BAS


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