National Trading Standards - Coronavirus Scams

Our work during COVID-19

During COVID-19 we have been working with our clients on important issues that matter. Below is a showreel of some of the campaigns we have been working on with our clients:


UK Biocentre

UK Biocentre has transformed its laboratories to test swab samples for COVID-19 on an industrial scale.

Barley has been supporting UK Biocentre with communications advice, working closely with DHSC, and UK Biocentre partners to ensure the work of UK Biocentre staff and the volunteer scientists is reported accurately.

Hear more from the people who helped make this possible – click the video below.


Feed The Frontline

Man packing food bags for Feed The FrontlineFeed The Frontline is an initiative from new charity The Healthworkers’ Support Foundation which has been established in response to the COVID-19 crisis, delivering thousands of parcels of fresh produce to healthcare workers. Borough Market spearheaded the campaign to deliver thousands of bags of fresh fruit and vegetables to four London hospitals. Bradford St James Wholesale Market followed suit, working with Leeds Cares to deliver to hospitals in Leeds.

Barley led the media outreach programme and secured 44 pieces of coverage including BBC Radio London, The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian.

National Trading Standards
Unscrupulous criminals are exploiting fears about COVID-19 to prey on members of the public, particularly older and vulnerable people who are isolated from family and friends. National Trading Standards is warning people to remain vigilant following a rise in coronavirus-related scams that seek to benefit from the public’s concern and uncertainty over COVID-19.

National Trading Standards - Coronavirus ScamsCOVID-19 scams identified include:

  • Doorstep crime
  • Online scams
  • Refund Scams
  • Counterfeit goods
  • Telephone scams
  • Donation scams
  • Loan sharks

We devised and delivered a hard-hitting media campaign for National Trading Standards to raise awareness of these COVID-19 crimes and help prevent more people being scammed.

This led to 60+ pieces of coverage, including BBC News, The Guardian, Metro, Daily Mail and The Times. This coverage has led to a seven-fold increase in new sign-ups to the scams prevention campaign Friends Against Scams and the story overall has led to 10k+ new registrants

Guide Dogs

Martin Clunes and his dogs join the Guide Dogs virtual tea partyBarley supported Guide Dogs in their bid to break the Guinness World Record for the biggest virtual tea party.

32 celebrities, including Martin Clunes, Sir Andy Murray and Dame Julie Walters supported the fundraising effort.

We developed media materials to encourage the public to join the party to help Guide Dogs break the record and donate the price of a cuppa. We delivered blanket coverage including features in the Daily Telegraph, BBC Breakfast, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mirror, Sun online and Metro online, as well as an unforgettable interview with Martin Clunes in his pyjamas on Good Morning Britain.

The result was over 5,000 people posting a selfie of themselves enjoying a cup of tea on the Guide Dogs Facebook page. Many dogs made an appearance in the pictures and there were even some horses, donkeys, chickens and a hedgehog. A new world record was set, and the event raised over £43,000 in funds for Guide Dogs to continue their vital services supporting people with sight loss and their families

We’d like to thank all our clients, Barley colleagues and partners for their wonderful support.

A keyboard

Businesses join forces to combat COVID-19 scams

More than 100 organisations are spearheading a new initiative to combat fraud against businesses as more companies and employees adjust to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing their exposure to sophisticated business scams.

NatWest, Places for People and the Co-operative Bank are among the first companies to join Businesses Against Scams, a cross-industry initiative led by National Trading Standards that provides free tools for businesses to upskill and train their workforce to help identify and prevent scams.

Security risks include criminals targeting employees working from home who are isolated from colleagues. Scams include criminals impersonating government officials or a senior member of the business to put pressure on employees to give out sensitive information or make payments.

Remote working also presents new cyber security challenges, with security reliant on the resilience of home Wi-Fi routers and more employees familiarise themselves with new software and devices.

The Businesses Against Scams initiative provides free online training modules, including examples of prominent scams and how to avoid falling victim.

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

“Scams not only deceive legitimate businesses, they risk undermining the UK’s economic recovery. As more employees work from home, we’re urging businesses to protect themselves, their employees and their customers to help prevent significant financial losses or data protection breaches.”

The types of scams directly targeting businesses include tax refund fraud, 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 who have fallen victim to a scam can also be devastating and long-lasting.

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

“We’ve launched Businesses Against Scams as a free tool for organisations to help safeguard their business and protect their workforce and customers. More than 100 businesses have already signed up to the free training, which is empowering businesses and employees – who are all adapting to new working environments – to take a stand against scams by equipping them with advice and knowledge on how to identify and prevent a scam.”

The four most common scams to target 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 phone 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 already hold or that have been obtained independently rather than any included in the request. Do not call the number in the request or reply with your email details as this may be fraudulent.
  • CEO scams – A sophisticated scam that plays on the authority of company directors and senior managers. An employee receives a phone callor 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 directly 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 check that the bank or payment website you’re using is secure – a small padlock beside the web address will confirm you’re using a secure site. Always be suspicious of cold callers. Genuine companies would never call out of the blue and ask for financial information.

Allison Simon, Head of Fraud, Commercial Banking, NatWest Group said:

“During this uncertain period, fraudsters are using the anxiety and stress caused by the crisis to try and target individuals and businesses with seemingly legitimate and convincing requests. It’s more important than ever that our customers are aware and alert to this increased threat, and its why we’re pleased to be a founding member of Businesses Against Scams, in partnership with National Trading Standards.

“We’d encourage all businesses to remember three basic tips to keep themselves safe. Firstly, never rely on just an email to validate payment – contact the sender on a trusted number. Second, NatWest will never telephone you asking you transfer money to a new or safe account. And finally, if you receive a request from a supplier to update bank account details, always call back using a trusted contact number to check it’s genuine.”

Small Business Minister Paul Scully said:

“Scams are despicable at any time, but particularly so if they seek to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As businesses adopt new working practices in response to the outbreak, it is important they stay vigilant against scams.

“I urge business leaders to sign up to the excellent Businesses Against Scams initiative and make use of free training to help protect their employees, customers and businesses from being taken advantage of during this difficult period and beyond.”

If a business believes they have been the victim of a scam they must contact their bank immediately. Please report any suspicious communication to Action Fraud.

Businesses Against Scams is a new part 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