Welcome to the August 2020 'Need to Know' update. You'll find the latest key information on the Coronavirus crisis, support from Government, cyber security, apprenticeships, and the latest developments
The top ten Covid-19 scams the public should be on high alert for
Using the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity, fraudsters are using sophisticated methods to callously exploit people, with many concerned about their financial situation and the state of the economy.
Some scams manipulate innocent victims, urging people to invest and “take advantage of the financial downturn”. Others impersonate well-known subscription services to get people to part with their cash and personal information. Criminals are even posing as representatives from the NHS Test and Trace service in an effort to trick people into giving away their personal details.
The ten scams to be on the lookout for and how to spot them:
Covid-19 financial support scams
- Criminals have sent fake government emails designed to look like they are from government departments offering grants of up to £7,500. The emails contain links which steal personal and financial information from victims
- Fraudsters have also been sending scam emails which offer access to ‘Covid-19 relief funds’ encouraging victims to fill in a form with their personal information.
- Criminals have been targeting people with official-looking emails offering a ‘council tax reduction’. These emails, which use government branding, contain links which lead to a fake government website which is used to access personal and financial information.
- Fraudsters are also preying on benefit recipients, offering to help apply for Universal Credit, while taking some of the payment as an advance for their “services”.
- One of the most shocking scams that has appeared during the pandemic has involved using the NHS Test and Trace service. Criminals are preying on an anxious public by sending phishing emails and links claiming that the recipient has been in contact with someone diagnosed with Covid-19. These lead to fake websites that are used to steal personal and financial information or infect devices with malware.
- Victims are also being targeted by fake adverts for Covid-related products such as hand sanitizer and face masks which do not exist.
- Criminals are sending fake emails and texts claiming to be from TV Licensing, telling people they are eligible for six months of free TV license because of the coronavirus pandemic. Victims are told there has been a problem with their direct debit and are asked to click on a link that takes them to a fake website used to steal personal and financial information.
- Amid a rise in the use of online TV subscription services during the lockdown, customers have been targeted by criminals sending convincing emails asking them to update their payment details by clicking on a link which is then used to steal credit card information.
- Fraudsters are also exploiting those using online dating websites by creating fake profiles on social media sites used to manipulate victims into handing over their money. Often criminals will use the identities of real people to strike up relationships with their targets.
- Criminals are using social media websites to advertise fake investment opportunities, encouraging victims to “take advantage of the financial downturn”. Bitcoin platforms are using emails and adverts on social media platforms to encourage unsuspecting victims to put money into fake investment companies using fake websites.
To read more about this go to https://bit.ly/2Pc4sM7
UK Government puts brakes on lockdown easing in England
The UK Government has announced a revision of Coronavirus guidance for England. In a statement on July 31, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“On Saturday 1 August, you’ll remember, we had hoped to reopen in England a number of higher risk settings that had remained closed. Today, I am afraid we are postponing these changes for at least a fortnight.
“That means that, until 15 August at the earliest:
- Casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and remaining close contact services must remain closed. Indoor performances will not resume.
- Pilots of larger crowds in sports venues and conference centres will not take place.
- Wedding receptions of up to 30 people will not be permitted, but ceremonies can continue to take place, in line with COVID-Secure guidelines.
“I know that the steps we are taking will be a heavy blow to many people – to everyone whose wedding plans have been disrupted, or who now cannot celebrate Eid in the way they would wish, I am really, really sorry about that. But we simply cannot take the risk.
“Two weeks ago, I also said that from tomorrow the government would give employers more discretion over how employees can work safely – whether by continuing to work from home or attending a Covid Secure workplace. We know that employers have gone to huge lengths to make workplaces safe, so that guidance remains unchanged. We also said we would pause shielding nationally from 1 August – based on clinical advice, that national pause will proceed as planned.
“ We will also extend the requirement to wear a face covering to other indoor settings where you are likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet, such as museums, galleries, cinemas and places of worship. We now recommend face coverings are worn in these settings, and this will become enforceable in law from 8 August.
To read more; go to https://bit.ly/3hSojfG
More businesses set to benefit from government loan scheme
Changes to state aid rules as a result of UK Government and industry lobbying mean that more small businesses can now benefit from loans of up to £5 million under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).
Previously businesses which were classed as ‘undertakings in difficulty’ were unable to access CBILS because of EU rules. Now, businesses in this category and which have fewer than 50 employees and a turnover of less than £9 million can apply to CBILS.
The Economic Secretary to the Treasury and the Small Business Minister have written to accredited lenders setting out their expectation that these changes will be implemented to ensure more businesses are receiving support.
Undertakings in difficulty are usually businesses with high levels of debt and accumulated losses.
The UK Government and industry groups have lobbied to relax the restrictive rules in the European Temporary State Aid Framework to make sure that small businesses who are not insolvent or receiving rescue aid can benefit, enabling them to bounce back and kickstart our economy.
Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, yesterday said: “Our loan schemes have been a key part in supporting businesses enabling them to bounce back as we kick start the economy. I’m delighted that our work with the Commission has paid off so we can further support the smallest businesses.”
For more details go to https://bit.ly/2PeFBqV
Apprenticeships standards are changing, what you need to know
Following the government announcement on 5 October 2018 that they would withdraw all apprenticeship frameworks in England by the end of the 2019/20 academic year, all apprenticeships starting in England from 1 August this year will be on new, employer-designed standards.
Standards have been developed with the aim of raising the quality of apprenticeships by responding to the needs of employers, using trailblazer groups. Standards describe what skills, knowledge and behaviours an apprentice will need at the end of their apprenticeship.
The Education & Skills Funding Agency (EFSA) have issued guidance to support relevant sectors on the decision to withdraw frameworks and replace them with apprenticeship standards on their website.
An apprenticeship framework is a work-based training programme that employees can follow to become competent at a particular job. It includes time learning at work and studying for a relevant qualification outside of work.
Apprenticeship standards set out the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for an apprentice to be competent and capable in their role, as determined by employers.
To read more go to: https://bit.ly/2EDum9C
New guidance to help firms do more for vulnerable consumers
The FCA has set out new best practice guidance for firms to do more to protect vulnerable consumers.
More than 24 million people display one or more potential characteristics of vulnerability – which include physical and mental health issues, recent life events such as bereavement, capability and financial resilience. Over a million people received debt advice last year.
The FCA says firms should do more to ensure that vulnerable consumers are receiving positive outcomes.
The consultation incorporates feedback from a range of bodies including consumer organisations, firms and trade bodies following the first phase of consultation in July 2019.
The FCA found many examples of good practice and firms thinking carefully about their customers and potential vulnerability. However, the FCA is also aware of cases where vulnerability is either not considered by firms or positively exploited for gain.
The guidance aims to provide a framework that allows all firms to accurately assess whether they are treating vulnerable consumers fairly, ensuring consistency across the financial services sector.
You can read more on this subject at https://bit.ly/3gjxB3T