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Coronavirus Advice  •  financial advice  •  Services

New scams surface during the COVID-19 crisis – What should you be wary of?

By RJP LLP on 21 April, 2020

Scams have been widespread online for a long time; from stolen cards being used to buy goods online, ordered goods that never arrive, fraudulent emails requesting bank deposits and phishing emails with bogus links. Now, the extra distractions; the uncertainty and anxiety of coping with the coronavirus, mean people are more vulnerable and it’s something we should all be more vigilant about. With millions of employees now working from home, companies also face a higher risk of being defrauded by people from outside their operations, as it can be more difficult to be sure of identities.

According to Action Fraud, industries like transport, manufacturing, hospitality and healthcare have already been targeted, generating collective losses of £800,000. Those figures were released in March 2020 and are now likely to be much higher. For example, one victim lost £15,000 trying to buy masks that were never delivered, others divulged personal information, donated to fake fundraisers or visited fraudulent HMRC websites promising tax refunds in exchange for information.

Now with the delays facing business owners seeking emergency finance, new bogus schemes offering rapid loans in return for payment of upfront fees are springing up – but the money is never forthcoming.

According to the FT, an executive at a big UK bank has seen retailers being targeted in an advanced push payment scam, in which emails instruct them to transfer money to an account supposedly at the Bank of England. Scammers could also pretend to be company suppliers, asking to change banking details in order to route money to a fake account.

Another scam is circulating through WhatsApp with messages telling the recipient that their bank is in financial difficulty due to the coronavirus and to transfer their deposits to a new secure bank account with alternative details.

Very often the emails look convincing at first glance using the relevant branding, but their language often lets them down, with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. The second clue is usually the email of the sender – it might look like an official email but look carefully  and investigate; it won’t have the right web address but might come from a very similarly named unknown server or webmail.

Here’s how to avoid falling prey to fraudsters:

  • Never pursue unsolicited special offers and remember that any quick fixes are unlikely to be true;
  • Don’t follow up on social media ads, sponsored ads online or links from senders you don’t know;
  • Never give out any personal details online unless you know exactly who the recipient is;
  • Check out whether the companies you are thinking of buying from are legitimate – is their website well maintained? Have they got customer reviews on Google? Can you find their management on LinkedIn?
  • Ensure your laptop and devices are running the latest software and app updates, ensure your employees are too;
  • Check bank statements for any unusual activity;
  • Verify requests to perform financial transactions using the contact details on the back of your bank card and do not accept contact details provided in an email;
  • Tighten up payment processes to add extra checks and authorisations;
  • Make sure employees are alerted to possible scams and support them with setting up the best possible security on their home networks and devices;
  • Ensure employees understand the risks of fraud, for example clicking on phishing links when working at home and then sharing information by email with colleagues – it could compromise others in the business;
  • Report any scams to Action Fraud and contact your bank immediately;
  • Keep remote employees up to date with all guidance and encourage them to take regular breaks to avoid losing concentration and falling prey to scammers.

partners@rjp.co.uk

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Capital gains tax is due to be reviewed by the government and if a CGT rise is announced, the new rates may become effective from the next tax year on 6 April 2021. Take advice now if you are thinking of selling property or have other assets giving rise to a capital gains tax liability.