Tony Collier opened Breakfast Matters for November, before introducing the first guest speaker – Julia Bentley of Trafford Training Standards. Julia is responsible for complaints at the Trafford centre and is a lead officer in investigating doorstep crime, however today, she was here to discuss how SMEs can become experts in spotting scams, and who to call during live cyber-attacks.

In this digital age, money doesn’t grow on trees, it grows on a web-hacking spree, as Julia began with the eye-opening statistic that online scams cost businesses £144 billion annually. Many scams specifically target SMEs, but the most common is procurement fraud and it is a ‘biggie’ as Julia put it. She revealed that procurement fraud alone claims £127 billion from SMEs each year and many businesses don’t even report it.

Next, Julia listed what typical scams SMEs should watch out for – some may be obvious but with thousands of pounds at stake, they are no laughing matter. Make sure to watch out for; fake invoices from HMRC, domain name scams, fake official emails from banks and anything stating that yourself or your business are owed money – all you need to do to have your tax reviewed is fill in a form and submit it to the council.

The majority of scam and con artists are now very sophisticated, and some don’t need many personal details to hack successfully and commit fraud. Therefore, Julia encouraged the audience to:

  • Keep staff updated with scams
  • Introduce invoicing systems
  • Delegate responsibility for payments and procurements
  • Review the security of your system
  • Be aware and be careful

After that, Julia turned focus to what to do when in doubt – check them out! Call the bank or government agency as they are aware that they are unfortunately being used to scam SMEs. Report what you find to Action Fraud, an intelligence gathering tool used by the Metropolitan police department, simply provide any number or website you have linked to the potential fraudster and they will take it from there.

She then told the audience what to do if you fall victim to live cyber-attacks such as hacking extortion, where criminals attack your network, steal customers’ personal information and demand a ransom for it’s safe return. Julia also explained what a distributed denial of service attack is, where your website is flooded to the extent that customers cannot access it, and a demand for ransom is again made to release it – unfortunately all you can do in both of these scenarios is report the situation. Paying a ransom does not guarantee that they will free your website or return your customers’ information – it is highly likely that they will sell these personal details on. For instances like live cyber-attacks, Julia recommended calling or emailing Operation Titan, a no-fee police initiative specialising in business fraud, who charge by the hour and offer help and advice.

Julia wrapped up by introducing a final cyber-attack prevention tip; the highly beneficial, multi-media tool iCAN (Informed Consumer Network). It offers a myriad of services from important information on fake fire officials in your area and government copycat websites, to notification alerts to warn you of potential threats in your area.

Tony then introduced the second speaker – Helen Auden, Events Co-ordinator at The LifeCentre. Helen opened with the question “Have you heard of The LifeCentre?” and being based locally in Sale, it was no surprise that many in attendance had. Helen reflected on the multiple times the venue has been mistaken for a medical centre, so went on to explain what The LifeCentre actually has to offer; a selection of spacious conference rooms, small and intimate meeting rooms, microphones, projectors and all rooms are extremely flexible to meet the needs of clients, so they are a perfect fit for everyone from corporate businesses to charities – plus, everyone loves their lemon cake!

Tony reminded everyone that Chamber Matters is now an all-new electronic newsletter, encouraged members to speak with Olivia at MiniMe Marketing to get involved through sponsorship and exciting features. Then came the draw of the 3 lucky business cards, the first was a dinner for two at the Cresta Court’s Townfields restaurant awarded to Kevin Owen of Vitality Health, the second winner of a free LinkedIn Health Check from Peter Collins was Jo Wright from Wright Promotional Products, and the third and final winner was Robert Tucker from Northern Power UPS, who won a 12-month strategy plan from New Level Results. Finally, Tony updated everyone on the upcoming events; The Cinnamon Club Mixer on 23rd November, the final Breakfast Matters of the year on 7th December and possibly the most exciting, the Chamber’s Christmas party on Friday 15th December!


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