And where something as new and substantial as the government crisis support is created, the fraudsters and scammers are already exploiting opportunities to try and steal key financial information from business owners and individual taxpayers.
Scammers are not on furlough – they are working full time on trying to fraudulently part individuals and business owners from their money.
Would HMRC really be sending you emails?
Using a phishing email scam which purports to come from Jim Harra, Chief Executive of HM Revenue and Customs, fraudsters are attempting to get business owners to reveal their bank account information which they say is necessary for them to make a claim via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
One of the giveaways is that the email is being sent via an email address not connected with HMRC but the name being ‘HM Revenue & Customs’. However, in some cases even the email address can appear to be genuine and our advice is to treat all communications with suspicion.
The email states: “We wrote to you last week to help you prepare to make a claim through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. We are now writing to tell you how to access the Covid-19 relief.
“You will need to tell your us which UK bank account you want the grant to be paid into, in order to ensure funds are paid as quickly as possible to you.”
If you receive a request to move money into a new bank account, contact the supplier directly using established contact details, to verify and corroborate the payment request. If you have made a payment obtained by fraud, inform your bank as soon as possible, they can help you prevent any further losses. Monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.
Scammers will also target business owners as individuals via text, email or phone offering spurious financial support or tax refunds. Several of the scams mimic government messages such as ‘Stay at home’ and ‘Stay home, stay safe’, as a way of appearing authentic and unthreatening.
Huge increases in the number of people working remotely mean that significantly more people will be vulnerable to computer service fraud where criminals will try and convince you to provide access to your computer or divulge your logon details and passwords.
It is absolutely vital that businesses have systems in place to identify and quarantine phishing emails and ensure that everyone is properly trained to spot suspicious communication.
Pension Liberation fraud
Pensions have become a favoured hunting ground for scammers in recent years. They seek to capitalise on changes that came into effect in 2015 which relaxed the rules on when people can withdraw money from their pension without paying tax.
If a business is in financial difficulties – even with the support put in place by the government – the temptation is there to use pension fund monies to shore up the business finances.
However, if this is something to be considered, seek advice first before making significant financial decisions. Take professional independent advice or contact The Pension Advisory Service (PAS) which provides free independent and impartial information and guidance.
Finally, the Financial Conduct Authority operates the ScamSmart website (https://www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart) to provide guidance on protecting against fraud – particularly investment fraud.