Protect your business from Covid-19 scams

 

 

 

 

With more people working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic, more business transactions are also being carried out online. Unfortunately, many of these transactions are being conducted from homes instead of offices. With fewer security measures in place, this has meant more businesses and employees are falling foul of fraudsters.  

Already, there have been hundreds of reports from businesses related to an upsurge in attempted fraud and the appearance of new scams relating to Covid-19. Businesses are losing millions due to cybercrime and other types of fraud during the pandemic. Here’s what to look out for and what steps you can take to protect your business. 

 

 

Where is your Coronavirus advice coming from? 

 

Phishing is on the increase as scammers send out mass emails claiming to be from government or medical organisations. While these emails claim to be offering advice and information on coronavirus, they are usually an attempt to obtain personal data and information.  

Typically, this is done through a request to click on a link, download an attachment or confirm login details for online servicesTheses attachments and downloads can install keyloggers or ransomware on computers allowing cybercriminals to access data and take control of your PC. 

The solution is never to respond to emails requesting personal data. Legitimate agencies won’t request such information by email. Look out for typos and grammatical errors that are also tell-tale signs that these emails are not genuine. 

 

 

Secure your communications 

 

Working from home, most employees don’t have the same security infrastructure in place as found in office networks. In addition, many cybercriminals are looking to exploit vulnerabilities in commonly used business video-conferencing applications. Zoom and Microsoft have reported that users are being messaged and asked to download malicious files through their video apps. 

To reduce the chance of being hacked, it’s important that home workers are provided with training to configure security settings on communication apps correctly, along with suitable firewall and malware software to keep cybercriminals at bay 

 

 

Invoicing scams 

 

Invoicing scams were commonplace before Covid-19, but police and fraud agencies are now warning that there has been an increasing number of cases of invoice redirection coming to light during the pandemic. This is when a business receives a fake email claiming to be from an existing supplier, notifying a change of bank details in the hope that the company will send future payments to a bank account of the scammer’s choosing. 

Again, preventing invoice redirection scams is all about staff training and putting effective protocols in place. Employees must be instructed to double-check any change in bank details over the phone before making a payment. Never reply to a suspicious email and do not click on any links. A good payment solutions provider, such as KoalaPays, will have other security mechanisms in place to prevent this type of fraud occurring.  

 

 

Fake suppliers and counterfeit goods 

 

Covid-19 has meant a huge upsurge in demand for PPE and disinfectant/cleaning products. Here, the scammers set up fake websites, sometimes imitating the sites of genuine sellers, advertising products for sale, take payments, but never deliver the goods. Alternatively, they buy in cheap, defective and counterfeit goods and sell them to customers at inflated prices.  

Firms looking for these products should research suppliers thoroughly and only deal with reputable businesses that have good customer relationships already. New companies should be fully vetted before any purchases are made.  

Another way that businesses can protect themselves against all types of fraud is to partner with a payment solutions provider that makes security a priority. KoalaPays’ platform is fully PCI-compliant and we use the latest fraud prevention technology to do everything we can to protect our clients from scammers.  

Five things businesses can expect in 2021

 

 

 

Given everything that’s happened in 2020, it’s anyone’s guess what’s coming down the line in 2021. But there are five main issues we know, that are almost certain to impact businesses across Europe next year.  

 

 

Brexit 

 

While, right now, the headlines are all about Covid-19, before the global pandemic hit, it was all Brexit. And that hasn’t gone away. On January 31st, the UK is set to leave the EU and, as yet, there is still no deal. Anything could happen between now and then, but whether it’s a no-deal or the parties come to some arrangement, there are sure to be serious ramifications for businesses both in the UK and the rest of Europe. Keep abreast of developments and begin putting contingencies in place on what you can plan for. 

 

 

Taxes 

 

As a result of Brexit – the UK leaving EU, means that the EU will lose a major contributor. The remaining 27 states will have to increase how much they pay into the central pot in order to balance the books – which means governments will have to find extra cash somewhere. Making up this shortfall could mean extra taxes on businesses. Again, we still don’t know all of the details and will have to wait and see how the EC reacts, particularly with the ramifications of the current pandemic. 

 

 

Covid-19 

 

As the second wave of Covid-19 is here, once again businesses are being locked down all over Europe. Without a doubt, there will be casualties as many go to the wall, despite governments bail out schemes to keep companies operating and employees paid.  

However, when the Covid-19 crisis finally ends, there’ll be a price to pay in terms of the debt left in its wake, along with a high probability of recession. Many businesses will be looking for handouts and funding to get back up-and-running. But, an even worse scenario could await in the early months of next year in the form of a third wave of the disease. 

 

 

Work from home is here to stay 

 

Coronavirus lockdowns saw more companies than ever implement WFH (Work From Home) policies. It’s thought that close to a third of all European worker have now worked from home at some stage during the pandemic and this is set to continue into next year.  

Many of these businesses wouldn’t have considered adopting these policies before the pandemic hitHowever, more significantly, many of these companies are seeing business benefits as a result of WFH and other flexible working policies. WFH will become the norm at many companies once the pandemic has ended.  

And, as we see those laid off during the pandemic re-entering the workforce during 2021, it will be companies that have embraced flexible working practices that will be able to cherry-pick the best of the talent out there.  

 

 

Payment technologies will do even more 

 

Voice technologies such as Alexa and Siri are changing the way consumers interact with technology and with businesses. Along with technologies such as AI (Artificial Intelligence), data analytics, Cloud computing and the Internet of Things, the way we purchase and pay for things is evolving fast.  

To benefit, businesses must make sure they are using the latest technology and partnering with payment solutions providers that will be able to connect them to more customers in new ways. At KoalaPays, we will always push the boundaries of what can be achieved with our payment solutions, offering more value and functionality to businesses that partner with us, as well as helping you to offer more to your own customers too. Get in touch with our team if you’d like to find out more.  

Current challenges small businesses face in Europe

 

 

Even pre-Covid-19, setting up and running a small business wasn’t easy. Now it’s even more challenging. But while the current crisis is far from over, Europe is beginning to reopen cautiously and return to some form of normality 

However, many more challenges lie ahead in the wake of the pandemic, not least of all the prospect of a pan-European recession. Here, we take a look at the economic landscape for small businesses over the short to medium term.  

 

 

Creating a perfect storm for SMEs 

 

While Covid-19 is an unprecedented disaster for businesses, it’s important to highlight that economic growth in Europe was already falling before the crisis hit. We were already potentially heading for a downturn with the IMF downgrading forecasts for 2019 from 3.7% to 3.3%. External factors are all still playing their role. The trade war between the US and China was, and still is, severely affecting global growth prospects for European businesses and has created a fall in external demand for EU goods. Relations between the two superpowers are at historic low and the situation is likely to deteriorate further.  

That said, this trade war could potentially create opportunities too. The competitiveness of Chinese and US firms is suffering and EU exporters could benefit. The EU was a key player in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) strengthening trade links with countries in the Asia-Pacific region. President Trump pulled the US out of this agreement immediately upon taking office, leaving the path clear for the other remaining countries to cement the agreement now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). At least five other Asian economies (Taiwan, Indonesia, Korea, Philippines and Thailand) have expressed an interest in joining the initiative and even China is studying the possibility of membership. This could see the EU doing much more business with its APAC neighbours 

 

 

Brexit is drawing closer 

 

Of course, behind the scenes, Brexit is still there. The UK has already left the EU and the deadline for Brexit transition on the 1st January 2021 is creeping ever closer. On this date the rules for importing and exporting goods to the UK will change. However, as the negotiations are still ongoing, what those new rules might entail is anyone’s guess.  

This continued uncertainty continues to weigh heavily on businesses throughout Europe, and the UK. It’s hard to predict how the relationship between European businesses and their UK partners will change after January 2021. Currency volatility, as well as tariffs, will have a big impact on how much business is still done between European companies and their UK partners. A decline in Sterling, for example, will make exports to the UK more expensive for customers there and directly affect European competitiveness. 

 

 

Financing small businesses 

 

Interest rates are set to stay the same (or even fall further in the event of a recession) as inflation remains low. While, theoretically, this should mean lower interest payments for companies that borrow to invest in the business, many SMEs have reported difficulties in securing finance. This has been a long-running problem for small businesses in Europe with many stating that traditional banks are inflexible and bureaucratic. Given a potential recession in the aftermath of Covid-19, this is not likely to improve as banks and other lenders become more reluctant to lend.  

However, with around €65 billion in funding for small business, the European Regional Development Fund could be a big help to struggling SMEs, helping firms access finance, as well as advice and networking opportunities – all of which will be necessary in order to expand into new markets, especially overseas.  

Besides this, many companies will be looking for more help from state authorities in terms of tax breaks and other financial supports to kick-start their businesses as they emerge from lockdown. Most states are already doing something. After all, these companies represent 99% of all businesses in the EU and are hugely important in powering local economies.  

 

 

Do more with digital 

 

Digitisation will continue to be important in cutting costs and driving efficiencies. Just as SMEs have turned to Fintech companies, such as KoalaPaysto help them be more agile and reduce their dependency on traditional banks, technologies such as Big Data, AI and Cloud Computing applications will provide new solutions to help these companies thrive in what could be a very difficult economic environment. Those that can make the best use of new technologies and online platforms will see the benefits in terms of lower costs, increased efficiencies and improved service for their customers 

Small and medium sized businesses are vital for the European economy and play a big role in employment in their own local markets, accounting for more than two-thirds of private sector jobs. Our economy cannot survive without them. Given their importance in our communities, with state help, technological innovation and networking, despite the challenges ahead, European SMEs should continue to succeed on the global stage. 

Five things business owners can learn from Covid-19

 

 

Covid-19 has had a significant impact on businesses in every sector. Companies are learning the importance of being resilient, resourceful and being prepared for the unexpected. But that’s not all. Along the way, the crisis has revealed valuable insights that have led to changes and many firms asking: why didn’t we do this earlier? 

 

 

Flexible working 

 

Perhaps the biggest lesson for companies has been that working from home and other flexible working policies are good for businessFirms that, for one reason or another, were hesitant to adopt working from home practices, have had no choice but to give WFH (Work From Home) a go. Vast numbers of people are now working from home. And, as both employees and businesses see the benefits, it looks likely that many companies will be adopting flexible working practices permanently 

Clearly, by working from home, the daily commute has been eliminated and employees are enjoying a better work/life balanceIn turn, this has translated into benefits for employers in the form of a happier, more productive workforce. Companies are reporting other advantages too. Virtual meetings tend to be more structured and effective than a crowded conference room and there are considerable cost savings to be gained with no workers on site. 

 

 

Digital transformation 

 

Implementing flexible working practices such as WFH has meant that companies have also had to change the way they work. This has meant updating IT infrastructure, as well as improving work processes. All this is making businesses more streamlined and efficient. Digital technology, Cloud applications and virtual solutions are all powering this digital transformation, helping teams to collaborate, communicate and operate as usual. Services such as KoalaPays payments platform is just one example of how these new, fully digital solutions can benefit businesses. 

 

 

Contingency planning 

 

One thing everyone has learned from Covid-19 is that you can’t predict what’s round the corner. That’s why it’s so important to plan for every conceivable contingency. Despite the unexpected magnitude of the current crisis, those companies that had even generic disaster recovery and contingency plans in place will have been more resilient than those without.  

Those without such plans are now doing the same, creating dedicated ‘disaster’ teams to look at business processes and links in the supply chain, where things can go wrong and what can be done to mitigate risks in the event of a crisis. Again, digitalisation is key here. The more business processes are outsourced to the Cloud, the more they will be protected.  

 

 

Proactive planning for the future 

 

While disaster recovery and contingency planning is essential to safeguard against the unknown, business planning for what you can see is just as important. Things are unlikely to be the same ever again for businesses – in every sector – so it’s important to look ahead to spot opportunities and challenges that might be coming down the line for your business. Flexibility is key here 

Get your team together for a meeting to review the changes implemented as a result of the pandemic. Question what’s working and what isn’t. Then discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead. How can you prepare for them? Let everyone have a say. You might be surprised by some of the ideas and solutions you discover. 

 

 

Greater co-operation 

 

Tackling Covid-19 has meant everyone working together, from governments and state bodies to businesses and their customers. Beating the challenges to come in the wake of the pandemic will depend on the same co-operation. Solutions happen when people work together, whether that’s a business and its staff, partners and customers, or even collaborations with competing firms.  

Rather than sticking to tried and tested ways of doing business that have worked up until now, business owners must look at the new paradigm created by Covid-19 and proactively develop new strategies that will help their business not only survive, but thrive in the era that is to come 

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