Business Advice

Criminals are using the Coronavirus as a cover story to trick you into parting with your business’s money or information. Always take a moment to Stop, Challenge, Protect before making any payments.

With phishing emails pretending to be from government departments offering Covid-19 financial assistance to text messages impersonating your CEO, it’s never been more important to not let your guard down and keep your business safe from fraud and scams.

Criminals are experts at impersonating people, businesses and the police. They spend hours researching your business for their scams, hoping you will let your guard down for just a moment.

Follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and Stop, Challenge, Protect when being asked for your business’s money or information.

Business aDVICE

Emails

With many businesses closed down at the moment, it has never been more important to check all requests received by email to make urgent or immediate payments or amend bank details, to confirm they are genuine before processing them.

  • Chris received an email from what he thought was one of their business’s suppliers asking for immediate payment of an invoice to a new sort code and account number. Without confirming the change of account details with the company directly by telephone, Chris proceeded to pay the outstanding invoice. Later that week, Chris received an email from the genuine supplier requesting payment which he told them he’d already paid. The genuine supplier had not changed their bank details and Chris had paid a criminal who had hacked his company emails.
Covid-19 Government relief schemes

Criminals are taking advantage of Covid-19 by sending fake emails and texts designed to look as if they are from government departments offering grants of between £2,500 and £7,500 to people who are out of work due to the pandemic. The links contained in emails are supposedly used to “determine eligibility” for the scheme when clicked on. However, these are actually being used by criminals to obtain personal and financial information. This could in turn lead to criminals committing identity fraud using your business’s name.

Text messages

With many businesses moving to remote working, criminals are impersonating CEOs or IT departments asking employees to move funds and send banking information or security information. If you receive a text message purporting to be from your boss or someone in senior management, take a moment to think before you before part with your business’s money or information. Make sure requests are legitimate and consult with other staff members before you take action.

  • Mariah received a text from her “CEO” asking her to make an urgent payment to a supplier and asked for proof of payment once completed. She had received a dozen emails relating to expedited orders and refunds as a result of coronavirus and thought nothing of it. She sent the money without consulting any of the members in her team, but little did she know that she had paid a criminal.

Phone calls

Criminals are experts at impersonating Wi-Fi providers and threatening disconnection unless a fee is paid. With large numbers working from home, this is causing people to panic and feel pressured into making rash decisions. If you do receive a call like this then hang up immediately and call your Wi-Fi provider back on a confirmed phone number and preferably from another phone. If you don’t have another phone to call from, wait a few minutes before calling.

  • Kate had never worked from home before and was having several issues. She was contacted by someone from an IT provider claiming that there were problems with her internet connection which were causing her computer’s performance issues. She was asked to download software onto her computer which gave remote access so the problem could be resolved. Kate was then advised that she needed to purchase an additional piece of software and asked to login to her online banking to make an immediate payment. By doing this, she had inadvertently given the criminal control of her bank account as he was still connected to her computer.

Emails (phishing)

Many businesses may find themselves under financial pressure during the coronavirus lockdown. Offers of financial assistance that arrive by email unexpectedly may seem like a lifeline but always remember to take a moment to think. Could it be fake? Go to www.gov.uk for more information.

  • Neil was feeling the strain financially after his business had to close following the implementation of coronavirus lockdown measures. When he received an email from a government department stating that he was entitled to claim financial help if he clicked on a link he was relieved. He was redirected to a website that looked exactly like the one of the genuine organisation. Neil completed the form requesting his personal and financial information. Payment was never received and when Neil contacted the organisation to ask what the delay was, they advised him he’d been scammed.

If you can’t find what you are looking for here there is further help and support on fraud and cyber crime available on gov.uk.

Always remember

Avoid clicking on links within text messages or emails and always log into your business’s bank account to update information or make any legitimate payments


If you think your business has fallen for a scam, contact your business’s bank immediately using a number you know to be correct, such as the one on the back of your business’s bank card, their website or on a statement


You can forward suspicious emails to [email protected] and suspected scam texts to your business’s mobile network provider by forwarding them to 7726. If a scam text claims to be from your business’s bank then you should also report it to them


Be cautious of unsolicited approaches presenting your business with financial assistance. You can check the British Banker’s Association for a list of accredited lenders


Confirm urgent payment requests directly with the sender in person or over the phone


Question uninvited approaches and contact companies directly using a known email or phone number


Don’t give anyone remote access to your computer following a cold call or unsolicited text


Confirm supplier bank details directly with suppliers using their established on-file details before any payments are made


Make sure you don’t step outside your usual payment method even if it’s urgent


When paying someone for the first time, transfer a small amount first and check payment has been received directly by the company


Where possible, send confirmation of payment to service providers once their invoice has been paid.