Protecting businesses from COVID-19 scams

Malicious email attachments, false government grant phone calls and CEO impersonation scams are among a raft of scams undermining businesses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The increasing risk has led National Trading Standards to launch Businesses Against Scams – a free online training tool to protect businesses, employees and customers from costly scams.

With remote working and many businesses having to stop or diversify their trading practices, criminals are seizing the opportunity to target employees who are isolated from colleagues. Scams include criminals impersonating government officials or a senior member of the business in order to put pressure on employees to give out sensitive information or make payments.

Criminals will also try and gain access to businesses devices and networks, and everything stored on them. They can do this by:

  • Sending emails with malicious attachments;
  • Exploiting vulnerabilities in your operating systems if they are not up-to-date;
  • Trying to get you to click links or visit malicious websites.

Once they have access to your device and your data, they may try to steal your data or extract money from you by getting you to pay a ransom.

At a time when businesses are already facing challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the proliferation of related scams are adding further strain on businesses. This includes scams directly targeting businesses – such as tax refund frauds – which can lead to significant financial losses for businesses.

Scams targeting customers also undermine businesses, as criminals often impersonate businesses to defraud their customer base, causing reputational damage and potential loss of business. The emotional and mental impact on employees and business owners who have fallen victim to a scam can also be devastating and long-lasting.

The increased risk for businesses has led National Trading Standards to encourage more businesses to join Businesses Against Scams. The initiative provides free tools for businesses to help upskill and train their workforce, through free online training modules that will help staff identify and prevent potential scams. Businesses can take the training and sign up at https://www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/BAS.

Louise Baxter, Head of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, said:

“Criminals will use every opportunity they can to defraud innocent people. They will continue to exploit every angle of this national crisis and we want businesses to be prepared. We’ve launched Businesses Against Scams as a free tool for organisations to help them protect their business, their staff and their customers.”

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:

“COVID-19 has presented new opportunities for businesses to be exploited. Criminals are expert at impersonating people, businesses and the police. They spend hours researching a business for their scams, hoping an employee might let their guard down just for a moment. Business must be vigilant at all times. Never rush, act cautiously and always challenge.

“The Businesses Against Scams initiative empowers businesses and their employees to take a stand against scams by equipping them with the advice and knowledge on how to identify and prevent a scam.”

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.

Businesses should be cautious about unexpected urgent communications offering financial assistance. Check that the information is genuine by using official government websites.

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.

Never rush a payment. Use contact details that you have used before to check that it is genuine.

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.

Be cautious about unexpected urgent requests for payment and always check the request in person if possible.

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.

Always be suspicious of cold callers. Genuine companies would never call out of the blue and ask for financial information.

If a business believes they have been the victim of a scam they must contact their bank immediately and report any suspicious activity to Action Fraud https://www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.

Businesses Against Scams is a new element of the successful Friends Against Scams initiative, run by National Trading Standards to provide free online training to protect and prevent people from becoming victims of scams www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/

Special Panellist Announcement – COVID-19 Business Support Webinar – MP Sam Tarry

We are extremely proud to announce that MP Sam Tarry will be joining our expert panel on the 23rd of April 2020.

Sam Tarry is a British politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Ilford South since the 2019 general election.

Webinar Topics/Speakers

  • Deferring VAT and Self-Assessment payments (Speaker – Jamal Khan)
  • Self-employment Income Support Scheme (Speaker – Jamal Khan)
  • The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank (Speaker – Jamal Khan)
  • A new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans (Speaker – Jamal Khan)
  • Tax planning (Speaker – Usama Awais)
  • Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) (Speaker – Albert Peters)
  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Speaker – Albert Peters)
  • Business Assurance (MP Sam Tarry)
  • 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England (Speaker – Paul Nightingale)
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all businesses in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief. Grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 (Speaker – Paul Nightingale)
  • Commercial rent protection Scheme (Speaker – Kevin Clarke)
  • Energy costs and bills (Speaker – Ryan Edwards)

Please register for a place now via our Eventbrite and Zoom links below (Both registrations are required)

Event & Registration (How to register and how the event will be held)

Event platform – Zoom webinar (Zoom is a web-based video conferencing tool with a local, desktop client and a mobile app that allows users to meet online, with or without video. Attendees will require access via a laptop, desktop, handheld pad or mobile phone device to attend)

 

Date – 23rd April 2020

Registration starts – 5.15pm

Presentation starts – 5.30pm

Q&A starts – 6.50pm

Event finishes – 7.30pm

Format – An hour of presentations from members of the panel, followed by an hour of Q&A from attendees

 

Registration platform – Eventbrite/Zoom

To register, you will need to acquire a free ticket from Eventbrite and also register for the meeting through Zoom meetings. The registration process can be completed by clicking on the links below in turn; 

 

Eventbrite Registration Link

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/copy-of-ilford-bid-covid-19-business-support-webinar-tickets-102678556326

 

Zoom Meeting Registration Link

https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJwvce6qrjojGtacLZr_wDb5LpOy1nS0cy9F

 

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to make contact at admin@ilfordbid.com. Please share the links above so that others may also benefit from the webinar and information shared.

COVID-19: Job Retention Scheme is live and more online meetings announced

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is now open for applications. Employers can now claim online for a grant for 80% of their furloughed employees’ salaries, up to a maximum of £2,500 per employee, per month, through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This scheme will be open until the end of June 2020.

Before employers claim, they need to:

  • Read all the available guidance on GOV.UK before applying;
  • Gather all the information and the precise calculations they need before starting their application. If they have a payroll provider, they will be able to help them with this;
  • Employees can find out more in the calculation guidance where they can access a claim calculator. This will allow them to check their claim for most employees who are paid the same amount each pay period;
  • Access the simple, step-by-step guide on GOV.UK for additional help.

To receive payment by 30 April, employers will need to complete an application by 22 April.
 
The government expect to be very busy so are asking that employers only call if they can’t find what they need on GOV.UK or through their webchat service – this will leave lines open for those who need help most.

Video Relay Service (VRS)
The availability of Video Relay Service (VRS) into all DWP services is being extended. VRS enables British Sign Language (BSL) users to contact DWP via a BSL interpreter. The customer uses a video link accessed through their own computer, smartphone or tablet. The interpreter will then speak to a DWP agent relaying the conversation by phone. There is no need for anyone to be in the same location and the customer does not have to book the service in advance.

This means that the customer and DWP agent can have a telephone conversation in real time.

VRS is already available for BSL users who claim DWP disability benefits as well as Access to Work.

VRS will be exteded to customers claiming Universal Credit first, then in the coming months further extend VRS into all DWP services. See the press release here. 

The Employabiity Sector Resilience Survey
If you haven’t already done so, please set aside some time to complete the sector resilience survey – we have extended the deadline until Friday 24 April 2020, 12pm to allow more responses to build our solution based response. https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/NNY6HNX Please share the survey with your own supply chains and networks delivering employment support services. If you have any questions or experience any issues with this survey please email us at membership@ersa.org.uk

GM reveals plans to secure skills and employment training during COVID-19 crisis – read more

ERSA Online for members
Save the dates below and register via the links. Please follow ERSA on Eventbrite to be the first to hear when registrations go live! Please note, if you have an overdue invoice and have not been in touch to discuss or your membership has lapsed you will not be invited to join the online meeting. 

28 April, 11am ERSA Online: Employer Engagement, Register in advance here 

7 May, 10.30am ERSA Online: Youth Employment, Register in advance here 

11 May, 11am ERSA Online: Employment Support GM, Register in advance here 

13 May, 11am ERSA Online: Disability and Health, Register in advance here

18 May, 2pm ERSA Online: Employment Support London, Register in advance here

20 May, 11am ERSA Online: Supply Chain, Register in advance here 

21 May, 11am ERSA Online: Communications and political Insights, Register in advance here

10 June, 11am ERSA Online: Older Workers, Register in advance here

ERSA Online is free to fully paid up ERSA members, £50 plus booking fee and VAT for everyone else. A link to join each online meeting will be sent to those registered in advance once membership has been verified, or payment received. Terms apply, please check before registering. 

The ERSA Employability Awards 2020 is open for entries until 30 April at 5pm. Full details and online entry can be found at https://ersa.org.uk/ERSAAwards20.

 

Stay in touch, stay safe

ersa.org.uk/coronavirus_resources

membership@ersa.org.uk

policy@ersa.org.uk

Postponement of new LEZ and DVS rules in London

Dear Customer,

The Mayor of London has asked Transport for London to delay the enforcement of new rules for London’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and Direct Vision Standards (DVS) for at least four months after their introduction this October.

Although the new rules under both schemes will still legally come into force on 26 October, no charges will be payable or enforced until the end of February 2021. The new date for the start of enforcement will be kept under review.

We realise that the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the road, freight and bus sectors in ways which could make compliance with the new standards more challenging.

Though companies have been preparing for the new rules for some time, with many vehicles already compliant, the pandemic has disrupted supply chains and has placed additional demands on the industry. Postponing enforcement will allow the freight industry to focus on its core operations during the pandemic. 

We remain committed to working together to tackle some of London’s biggest challenges, including road danger and air quality. Tightened emission standards for buses, coaches, lorries and specialist vehicles – in line with the tough requirements in place for the central London Ultra Low Emission Zone – will help clean up London’s air and save lives. 

Meanwhile, the DVS will reduce danger to vulnerable road users by introducing a safety permit system for HGVs, assigning vehicles a star rating based on how much the driver can see through their cab window. 

You can find full details of the LEZ scheme and DVS scheme on our website. 

Yours sincerely,

Customer Information Team

Transport for London

Covid-19 business support – City of London

city business library

Covid-19 business support

Based on current Government advice on Coronavirus/Covid-19, we regret to inform you that the City Business Library will be closed to the public until further notice. Although we are currently closed, we are doing our best to help you protect, research and grow your business in these unprecedented times.

What we are doing during the Covid-19 self isolation period:

City Business Library staff are currently all working from home, if you have any questions we will be happy to answer them via email.

Our members are still able to access the databases available to them via their chosen membership subscription.

We will soon be introducing free bitesize business start-up advice sessions, you can register for these on Eventbrite.

We are supporting our partners and speakers with their webinars which you can find on our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages.

Free information resources available for City Business Library members:
Our online databases including access to the Cobra (Complete Business Reference Adviser) database that has a factsheet ‘Coronavirus – Government Support for Business’ which contains advice on sources of information for businesses and employers.

Free websites focusing on funding support for business:

  • London Growth Hub offer useful links on their site to help London businesses through these times, including free 121 advice for businesses and employers
  • Federation of Small Business offer guidance and support advice, they also includes free webinars for anyone
  • GRANTfinder have produced information about government schemes to help with funding for UK business

Free websites focusing on the impact on industries/market sectors:

A free webinar hosted by IBISWorld on Covid-19, and is a detailed report on: The economic situation of the coronavirus in the UK; The key sectors affected; The long-term repercussions for the economy

Facts and figures on Covid-19/Coronavirus, updated regularly, by Statista. this will give not only the headline global data but the impact on individual industry sectors.

Marketline has produced an Executive Briefing (2MB) with an in-depth look at the impact on industry sectors worldwide. This file will be emailed to all CBL members, but can be emailed to anyone on request, please email the team. It was written 24 March 2020 but we will send any further updates.

Ilford BID COVID – Webinar Invitation on the 23RD of April 2020

The Ilford BID would like to invite you to a COVID-19 business support webinar with the London Borough of Redbridge, the Redbridge Chamber of Commerce, Clintons Management Ltd., Nationwide Utilities Ltd. and the Hainault BID on 23rd April at 5.30pm. http://ow.ly/9gNq50zdTS9


Ilford BID COVID – 19 Business Support Webinar Invitation on the 23RD of April 2020 from 5.30pm to 7.30pm

The Ilford BID would like to invite you to a COVID-19 business support webinar in collaboration with the London Borough of Redbridge, the Redbridge Chamber of Commerce, Clintons Management Ltd., Nationwide Utilities Ltd. and the Hainault BID.

The webinar will provide a structured platform where businesses owners can have a detailed review of the COVID – 19 support from the government, local authorities and banks. Attendees will also have an opportunity to ask relevant questions to the webinar panel for clarification.

If you have questions in relation to the topics below, please register for a free ticket.

Webinar Topics/Speakers

  • Deferring VAT and Self-Assessment payments (Speaker – Jamal Khan)
  • Self-employment Income Support Scheme (Speaker – Jamal Khan)
  • The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank (Speaker – Jamal Khan)
  • A new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans (Speaker – Jamal Khan)
  • Tax planning (Speaker – Usama Awais)
  • Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) (Speaker – Albert Peters)
  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Speaker – Albert Peters)
  • 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England (Speaker – Paul Nightingale)
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief. Grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 (Speaker – Paul Nightingale)
  • Commercial rent protection Scheme (Speaker – Kevin Clarke)
  • Energy costs and bills (Speaker – Ryan Edwards)

 

Speakers/Facilitators Roles

Cyril Bekoe
Cyril is the Ilford BID Manager who will host and facilitate the webinar.

Paul Nightingale
Paul is a Business Rates Manager for the London Borough of Redbridge with extensive experience and knowledge of business rates and business grants. Paul will cover all business grants and business rates related topics. 

Jamal Khan
Jamal is a Senior Tax Director at Churchill Tax Advisers and has extensively hosted webinars, press, radio and video interviews related to the COVID-19 financial support packages. Jamal will cover VAT deferral, self-employment income support, CBills and lending from the Bank of England.

Usama Awais
Usama is a Senior Tax Adviser at Churchill Tax advisers and has extensive experience in tax planning and management. Usama will provide an overview on tax planning and property investment.

Ryan Edwards
Ryan is a BID Manager at Nationwide Utilities Ltd. and has extensive experience in providing cost saving solutions to businesses to acquire green energy solutions. 

Kevin Clarke
Kevin is with Clintons Management Ltd. and has extensive experience in residential lettings management. He can provide in site into the COVID-19 commercial rental protection scheme.

Albert Peters
Albert joins us from Pegasus HR with extensive experience in the HR field and will comment on COVID – 19 sick pay, furlough process and the job retention scheme.

Event & Registration (How to register and how the event will be held)

Event platform – Zoom webinar (Zoom is a web-based video conferencing tool with a local, desktop client and a mobile app that allows users to meet online, with or without video. Attendees will require access via a laptop, desktop, handheld pad or mobile phone device to attend)

Date – 23rd April 2020

Registration starts – 5.15pm

Presentation starts – 5.30pm

Q&A starts – 6.50pm

Event finishes – 7.30pm

Format – An hour of presentations from members of the panel, followed by an hour of Q&A from attendees

Registration platform – Eventbrite/Zoom

To register, you will need to acquire a free ticket from Eventbrite and also register for the meeting through Zoom meetings. The registration process can be completed by clicking on the links below in turn; 

Eventbrite Registration Link

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/copy-of-ilford-bid-covid-19-business-support-webinar-tickets-102678556326

 

Zoom Meeting Registration Link

https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJwvce6qrjojGtacLZr_wDb5LpOy1nS0cy9F

 

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to make contact at admin@ilfordbid.com. Please share the links above so that others may also benefit from the webinar and information shared.

Coronavirus Job Retention scheme UPDATE ON THE HMRC PORTAL

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has confirmed that the online portal for applications to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) will open on Monday 20 April 2020.

The CJRS provides grants worth 80 per cent of a furloughed employee’s salary up to a cap of £2,500 a month, plus Employers’ National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and minimum employer auto-enrolment pension contributions.

Furloughed employees are placed on temporary leave and may not carry out any work during the period of furlough.

To avoid any possible claims later you should have got them to sign and date a temporary amendment to their contract of employment.

IF you have not done so yet please contact us as soon as possible in order that we can draft you a furlough letter specific to your needs.

You should send us an up to date copy of a typical contract or, if we have assisted you with drawing up and modifying your contracts of employment recently, then tell us which one you would like to use as the basis for modifying in order to meet the furlough leave situation.

Any employee on your PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020 can be furloughed, including those who have subsequently left but who you are prepared to take back on.

The scheme is backdated to 1 March 2020 and is in effect until the end of May, although the Government has said it will be extended if necessary.

Please contact your payroll adviser, if you do not do your own payroll, having prepared the following information in preparation for submitting your claim.

  1. The name of each furloughed staff member; and
  2. The date each employee was furloughed and when you expect them to resume working, if known.

Albert Peters

Pegasus Hr

hr@pegasuspersonnel.co.uk

07760 178070

01379 898784