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What We’ve Learned from Bringing Cyber to the High Street

Our Community Outreach programme sees us taking cyber to the high street with visits from our team directly to businesses’ doorsteps, and so far, we’ve made incredible progress, averaging around 300 businesses visited per month in the first quarter of 2023.

The numbers certainly paint a positive picture, but our work is about far more than that. We think it’s important to dig deeper than the stats and listen to what the business owners themselves have to say.

Our team never tire of hearing the stories of each organisation they visit, as it helps to keep them energised and focused on the mission when they can see the real-life impacts of both cybercrime and the work that we do to combat it.

Team member Abdulrazzaq was particularly struck by the tale of an Indian Street Food Business he encountered on a recent visit:

“The owner told me how she had recently fallen victim to fraud, losing approximately £100. The people she had paid the money to were claiming to be lawyers collecting an outstanding debt from a gas company, which she was told she had to repay urgently.

After paying, the harassment was only just beginning, and she received many phone calls, emails and letters with further requests. That’s when she realised that she had fallen for a scam, but feeling vulnerable and exposed to criminals, and fearing the loss of more money, she simply stopped using her computer and telephone for business altogether as she didn’t know how to use them safely going forward.

The business owner didn’t report this incident to police either, mainly because she didn’t think it would help herself or anyone else and didn’t have faith that anything would be done about it.

When I told her what we do and how she can protect herself online, with measures she can actually implement herself like 2-Step Verification, she was very happy, and she even offered me cake and tea (but I was fasting – so maybe next time!)

I wrote her a list of all the websites that can help, offered her our free membership, and let her know that we provide webinars and training on how to stay resilient online. I told her that ultimately our ethos is “prevention is better than treatment”, and that’s the kind of service we seek to provide.

For me personally, I have the best feeling after knowing that I have managed to make someone happy.”

Our Customer Relationship Manager Hannah also finds these Community Outreach days really rewarding and great sources of information to support the resources we’re delivering:

“We’ve noticed that some business owners tend to leave the social media aspects of the business to their children and other younger family members, as they’re “more techy”. There’s also a trend we’ve spotted that staff members don’t know what systems are in place to defend the business for cybercrime, which suggests that lack of staff awareness is another potentially huge area of vulnerability.”

Our Community Outreach Officer Alberta has noticed the same thing:

“I will ask the assistants or managers if I can I take a short survey and ask questions about how they protect their data.  The reason why I am asking it is to get an overall picture of their online activities, which helps us advise them and guide them to the right resources.

However, the difficulty that I face quite often is that the assistant is not aware of any online activities such as website, social media and so on, so I do not get the overall picture of how they carry out their online activities.”

There’s a lot that we can (and will!) learn from these stories, but for many of the SMEs we encounter on a daily basis, it’s enough just to have someone there that’s willing to listen.

Written by:
Tierney Kimmins-McLoughlin
04 May 2023