Action Fraud recently released data showing that since February 2020, Coronavirus scams have resulted in victims losing a total of £800k.
Sadly, it seems that during this challenging time, criminals are targeting individuals and businesses in a bid to scam or defraud them out of money or to obtain personal information.
It is therefore vital that you take steps to protect your business from coronavirus scams and fraud and that you also know how to act if you think your business has been a victim.
What types of scams are businesses facing during Coronavirus?
There are a range of scams thought to be happening during the coronavirus outbreak. Mostly targeting vulnerabilities, whether that be financial or health concerns.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau have reported 21 incidents of fraud where coronavirus was mentioned. Within this data, techniques to carry out coronavirus fraud include:
- Fraudulent sales – victims of this type of scam typically report purchasing equipment relating to Coronavirus, such as face masks, which are never delivered.
- Phishing emails – encouraging users to open attachments or reveal sensitive or personal information.
- Impersonation – many people and businesses are being contacted (by phone, email, text etc) by fraudsters who make it seem as if they are from or are affiliated with organisations such as HMRC, The World Health Organisation or the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention as well as banks, in the hope of obtaining money or sensitive information.
What should you do if you think you have been scammed?
If you think you have been the victim of a scam or fraud during Coronavirus, it is important to report it as soon as possible.
Report to Action Fraud – Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime. If you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cybercrime you should report the fraud here.
Get in touch with your bank – if the fraud or scam is financial, report it to your business’s bank immediately.
Report suspicious emails – you can report suspicious emails to firstname.lastname@example.org – doing so will send a copy of the email to the National Cyber Security Centre. If found to be a phishing scam, the site will be removed. Suspicious emails claiming to be from the HMRC can be sent to email@example.com. Taking this action could potentially help others avoid falling victim to the same scams.
How do you protect your business from coronavirus scams and fraud?
The government and related agencies such as the National Crime Agency are reminding everyone to be even more vigilant during the Coronavirus time as criminals look to target individuals and businesses. Key advice includes:
Staying safe online
Take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your business online. Particularly with more employees working from home, utilising email systems and online tools to complete their jobs. Relook at the basics, such as strong passwords and remind employees of your policies and the need to be vigilant and challenge things which don’t seem right. It is always important to be vigilant about cybercrime but particularly so during Coronavirus as criminals look to take advantage of changes to working practices etc.
The Cyber Aware campaign launched by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) may be worth referring to and includes a range of cyber security information.
The NCSC also have specific cyber security section for small businesses looking at areas such as avoiding phishing attacks and protecting your business from malware.
If you are contacted by businesses that you have never heard of, particularly if they are offering you coronavirus related equipment (masks, tests, PPE etc) then exercise caution before going ahead. Do your research to ensure they are a legitimate business before going ahead with any purchases.
Refine your processes
With reports of fraudsters impersonating banks and requesting you move money into a different bank account, it is important to look after your business’s money.
You may want to review your processes around finance for example. Only letting certain employees handle changes to payment details. And ensuring that any requests are checked with the supplier using established methods of contact.
Government advice centres around three key areas when it comes to protecting your business from fraud – stop, challenge, protect:
Stop – if you are asked to make an urgent payment, change supplier bank details or provide financial information.
Challenge – could it be a fake? All payments and supplier details should be verified directly with the company on a known phone number or in person first.
Protect – if you think your business has been scammed, contact your bank and report it to Action Fraud.
At Anthony Jones we want to support businesses as much as possible during the Coronavirus crisis. Do take a look at our advice and guidance to support you through the coronavirus pandemic. And if you have any questions about insurance then do not hesitate to contact us.