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The Positive Accountant - Vol 3 Ed 14

Updated: Aug 5

Last year we heard that it was fine to break the COVID rules to drive to Barnard Castle to test one's eyesight. I don't know about anyone else, but personally, I completely believed that as it came directly from the political establishment and no politician or adviser would ever lie.

We've recently found out, thanks to the would-be optometrist, that Boris believes his health secretary to be a little less than fully competent.

So what surprised me about today's news (if you missed it, see wasn't the story itself but the way it wasn't covered up.

I mean, had Dominic Cummings still been in charge of media management, I'm sure the reason for the pose in the photos would have been given that Mr Hancock had misread the COVID test instructions.

The byline could have read "Excuse me sir, but that isn't how you take a throat swab...'

And no doubt it could be said that the skirt was one of the prototype hand sanitising models - rub the wearer's buttocks to have hand gel dispensed where needed.

That was an opportunity missed if ever there was one - maybe I should apply for Dominic Cummings' old job ?

Serious point, the pictures have, I understand, been taken off CCTV footage from the Health Secretary's own office. There are all sorts of data protection issues here, enough to keep a dinner party of lawyers talking until breakfast.

Which can make you think about Data Protection policies and your own cameras. For example, how many restaurants have CCTV at the entrance where someone may have an interest in who his or her spouse is dining with ? Is the equipment secure, the data stored somewhere safely and, importantly, securely erased when the lawful purpose for needing it has passed ?

True story, one of my restaurant clients found an adulterous couple in a state of, shall we say, undress in the bushes of their beer garden. What do you do with that CCTV Footage ?

Questions for you to ponder all weekend.

On that note, surely there must be some positives out there ?

1. I still have a National Insurance Number

I was a little perplexed this morning to receive a call from an unknown mobile phone number.

Apparently (so the nice man with a pre-recorded voice told me) my National Insurance number was about to be cancelled due to 'unethical financial transactions' that I had been undertaking. If I didn't want that to happen I must press '1'. I mean, I'd filled up with fuel on the way in but didn't know diesel was that unethical.

I accidentally cut the call off, luckily a different number rang back a few minutes later to tell me the same. My reception was very poor and sadly the call dropped out. So whilst for the moment I have a National Insurance number, I'll probably lose it next week.

1A. On a related subject, we still have internet

Earlier this week Debbie received a call from an unknown mobile phone number warning that if she didn't take immediate action by pressing '1' then our broadband was going to be cut off later in the day due to 'illegal activity taking place on it'.

We really must do something about phone reception as the call was cut off. The following five phone calls from different numbers also dropped out. So I guess we'll lose Broadband next week too.

1B. My parcel from the Post Office with a fee to pay (per a text from an unknown number) hasn't been received - but not was the fee paid

Aside from being a huge waste of time, I keep hearing stories from real, serious, sensible, grown up people being caught like this. People like you and me.

Often the story starts 'I was walking into a meeting when the phone rang, I wasn't really thinking and ...'

2. Dot has been paid

I've been talking to my long standing friend and client Dorothy Tee this week about a major problem she has had.

Dot set her business up a few years ago, designing and installing children's playgrounds. Like most, the business has had its swings and roundabouts, overall it's been successful but recently sales have been on a slide.

Quite often the design can take some time to come to fruition - and it was the case with the farm shop/PYO run by Dee Zell. The installation is going to cost £70,000, work was scheduled to start Monday just gone and the terms of business are 50% on commencement, 50% on completion. They've spent 18 months agreeing specification etc and become pretty friendly, although not in a Matt Hancock way.

So last Friday Dot sent an email with a PDF invoice to Dee for £35,000 plus VAT. The email said 'Looking forward to starting, here is the invoice for 50% as agreed, bank details are on the invoice, see you Monday'

All great, but enter stage left (to the sound of hissing and booing), the villain of the piece - Nicola Yermonee, a hacker. Unknown to anyone, Nic has hacked Dee's email some time ago and is reading them as they come and go. Mainly boring stuff, but Nic was able to stop email being delivered.

Last weekend wasn't boring. Nic read Dot's email, and made a change so that it now says:-

'I attach the invoice as agreed. Please ensure payment clears to the bank account below before Monday otherwise we won't be able to start. We've got a long waiting list and if we don't start Monday it won't be until next year'.

Needless to say the bank account details entered on the email weren't Dot Tee's

Nic also went into the PDF attached invoice and deleted the correct bank account details. Dot didn't know that could be done - it can !

Dee was a bit annoyed about the curt tone of the email, she thought Dot Tee was a friend by now. But to make a point she paid the full amount of £70,000 plus VAT over the weekend and resolved to have it out with Dot on Monday.

Of course, by then Nic Yermonee had done just that...

To cut a long story short, the money has been recovered and Dot has been paid.

It just goes to show though.

Dot and I have been talking this week about how to stop this happening again. Feel free to adopt any or all of these policies in your own businesses, I'm sure there will be more that can be done:-

1.In future there will be a relatively small amount invoiced and paid before raising the first 'proper' invoice. In Dot's case £100

2. Dot will then confirm to the customer by text/phone/What's App (anything other than email)that the money has been received

3. Dot will also make it clear that under no circumstances will she be changing bank details and the client must only pay to the account verified by steps 1 and 2

Frightening, truly frightening.

(The only things that are fictitious in the above story are the names and the nature of the business - all the other facts, including the amounts - are completely true.)

3. It's the weekend...

...and the weather looks OK. Time for a Pimms on the patio, a Gin on the grass, an orange juice in the orchard, a beer on the bench or a p in the pond. (Actually no, don't do the last one, the fish don't like it)

We've got our pizza oven out of store. I was going to make a joke about it but thought it might be cheesy.

On that note, stay safe and stay positive. Enjoy your weekend

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