Tower Blog

A blog about smart POS software for independent small businesses.

Category: Social Responsibility (page 1 of 9)

Small business retail advice: how to cut the insurance overhead

Insurance is a must-have business overhead. It is critical to have the right level of coverage with a respected insurer.

As retailers, we often look at our overheads. We recently re-negotiated insurance coverage for our 3 retail shops and achieved a 30% cut in insurance costs. We reviewed the needs of each specific retail business and set about discussing these with our insurance broker, the same broker we have used for years.

We went into the discussions armed with facts about the business, accurate stock value data and accurate fixed asset value data.

Here are some of the changes we made to our insurance coverage:

  1. Property Cover – Annual Turnover adjusted to reflect trading, Contents including Re-Fit Costs adjusted, & Stock On Hand levels adjusted; These had drifted over time, adding to our costs inappropriately.
  2. Business Interruption –  Gross Profit levels adjusted; This is high cost coverage.
  3. Money Cover – Level reduced from $20K blanket cover per store to $5K (lower limit); We bank daily so there is minimal cash on hand. Also, more and more over the counter payments are non cash so the level of cash cover was too high.
  4. Glass Cover – Removed for for one store as there now is no glass window as well as no internal/external glass;
  5. POS Equipment Breakdown – Removed; We looked at the actual costs and considered that we had not claimed in our 23 years in retail and then determined that we effectively cover ourselves through the saving.
  6. Excesses – Increased from $500 per claim to $1,000 per claim since we have not claimed, ever.

The critical factor for us was that in all our years in retail we have never made a claim on insurance. Then one time our shop was flooded, we claimed against the builder for the landlord for disruption and inventory damage.

The renegotiation process took an hour. Time well spent for the 30% cut in insurance costs saving achieved.

We willingly share with our POS software customers details of our own experiences like this, in more specific detail than at this blog. We are glad to be able to help our customers in this practical way as every dollar shaved from business overheads is worth considerable more than you consider retail margins.

Yes, insurance cover is important. However, pay for what you actually need.

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Our own support for the bushfire appeal

We are running this donation offer in the shops we own and run. We’ve been doing it since the start of this week.

It costs our customers nothing. The donation comes 100% from us.

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Helping Zip Pay / Zip Money rain money for Aussie bushfire relief

We are grateful to Zip for their bushfire relief fundraising initiative. We support it and have encouraged retailers using our software, which integrates with Zip, to let their customers know of this.

To Australia, with love.
Our hearts are broken with thoughts of the people, animals, and volunteers so severely impacted by the devastating fires. As our country burns, we have to do what we can to support those who need it most.

Every Zip transaction from 9 Jan until 21 Jan will be rounded up to the nearest dollar. Zip will donate the difference – with a minimum pledge of $100,000 – to Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery, and WIRES Emergency Fund for Wildlife.

Zip customers directly impacted by the fires who need financial assistance with their accounts can get in touch with us.

We’ll be here for you.

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We urge federal politicians to support a package of initiatives to help stimulate the economies of local Australian towns

The bushfires across Australia are adding economic challenges to small rural and regional towns that were already challenged economically thanks to a soft economy and, in our view, poor leadership on the practical economics front.

We think it is essential for the federal government to engage urgently, practically and authentically to stimulate local economies and to do so blind to politics. Too often we see politicians endorse handouts to mates or based on the possible ballot box impact. Pork barrelling it is called. Right now, at this moment in time, we need no pork barrelling. What we need is stimulation where it is needed and the politicians should play no role in determining where it is needed.

In this post, as we did in November 2019, we call on federal politicians to engage in practical stimulation of small business retail as this will have an urgent, swift, knock-on benefit for local economies.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, small business retail especially.

Small business retailers are nimble and able to lift local economies faster than big businesses and certainly better than  online businesses.

Here are six tips for politicians on steps they can take, decisions they can make to help lift retail, especially small business retail.

  1. Direct all politician electorate Christmas spending to be with local small businesses. For gifts, parties, cards, everything for a year. Have the results assessed independently. Ensure that spending is fair, too, to benefit a variety of local businesses, and not dolled out as political favours. Shop local, shop small.
  2. Run a national shop small shop local ad campaign. Make it educational, smart, encouraging …, guiding Aussies on the value to them from shopping local, shopping small. Help to understand the true value of shopping local, shopping small compared to the alternatives. The ad campaign should run regionally across multiple media platforms, giving preference to locally owned platforms with a track record for not managing their business to minimise tax.
  3. Local shops refresh grant. Give every local retail business a grant of at least $10,000 with the stipulation that it is spent locally tin capital works for the shop, to improve the shop. Proof of local spending is to be in the form of an invoice from a local tradesperson or company with and ABN and more than a year of trading as recognised by the ATO – to avoid fraud. Spending could be focussed: painting, electrical, carpentry, flooring, repairs. The management of this should be online with quick approval and payment. Note: the $10,000 is suggested as anything less could be cosmetic. The reality is, we’d suggest $15,000 for $20,000. In a small town with ten shops, that would be $200,000 being spent with local contractors and businesses, flowing quickly through the economy.
  4. Local artists grants. Offer cash grants to fund buskers for local high streets, to make shopping locally more entertaining. Make the application easy. Focus on local artists entertaining in their local community. This serves the dual purpose of injecting cash locally as well as fostering the local arts. The application process should be online, approval fast and payment immediate.
  5. Local visual merchandising supports. Keeping in-store displays can be a challenge for small business retailers. Fund a network of merchandisers to make a 2 hour call weekly on qualified independent small retail businesses, sub $1M turnover, ABN registered, trading for six months or more. With each visit to be about visual refresh of the shop. Cap the cam pain at three months assess the economic value. Only local merchandisers to be used – i.e. to an overseas agency who hires local contractors.
  6. Establish local currency systems. These work overseas on regional towns where local currency has more value than the national currency. It supports shopping local through a smart value structure. the government role could be on the tech back end to manage the currency – taking away capital cost from local councils. To find out more ab9out this, read up on the Bristol Pound.

This list could be longer. It is offered here as a start, to gets people thinking of practical ways to support shopping small, shopping local.

The current disinterest by politicians in practical support for local small businesses has us on a path of business closures. Urgent action is needed to engage locals in supporting local businesses.

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POS software support prioritised for fire affected Aussie small business retailers

We have reached to our POS software customers with an offer of priority support for any business affected by the devastating bushfires hitting many Australian towns recently.

If your business has been affected by the bushfires.
Many towns in which we have clients with businesses have been hit by the devastating fires over the last week. If your business has been affected and you need our help, when you call or email us please mention that you are fire affected and we will give the call higher priority.

We can help with backup recover, urgent hardware replacement, insurance claims and more.

Traditionally, help desk call traffic is loe=w for the next week. This is why we have more people on annual leave at this time.

We will do our best to help you quickly and efficiently.

Our office is open. We are here not only for our customers but other retailers in need.

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Merry Christmas from us

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Australians need politicians who nurture consumer confidence

An important role for politicians is to nurture confidence in the community as it is confidence that encourages economic engagement, such as spending in local retail shops.

We know from consumer surveys in Australia in 2019 that consumer confidence is challenged. While a survey this month shows an uptick, confidence remains low, and this plays out at registers in shops large and small.

It is unfortunate that politicians of all sides too often prefer to attack rather than lead, they prefer to score points against competitors rather than encouragethe broader community to feel more confident. It is the politicians at the edge who appear to pull the most focus in the media and therefore do the most damage to consumer confidence.

There is plenty to be optimistic about, plenty from which we can build confidence in the community. This ought be the focus of all politicians. It ought be the focus of news outlets, too. They should stop doing the bidding of politicians, running their fringe issue stories, running stories for which there is non evidence of support.

Australian businesses, Australian retailers, small business retailers especially need local shoppers to be more confident. Confidence is key to getting people shopping.

While personal confidence is nurtured by personal success and achievement, community wide confidence can be nurtured through good leadership, the type of leadership politicians ought be delivering. The right words in the right locations could make a significant difference to the performance of retail businesses this Christmas.

No, we are not suggesting politicians say go out and spend up this Christmas or go and shop local. Those statements, which I have heard recently, are not confidence building. In my view, such statements are lazy. They fall flat.

I’d rather politicians talk about the awesome local gift they found, shine a light on a local shipping precinct in theirs electorate, talk up locally made food or celebrate with gratefulness every business related good news story in their electorate.

Politicians need to talk optimistically about the economy, shopping local, the country and the future. They can do this without being political, without supporting fringe issues. and without being clumsy in their pitch.

Community confidence builds over time, layer by layer, story by story. Politicians, for part of their lives, are storytellers. We need them to be good storytellers and tellers of confidence encouraging stories.

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#community

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Mental health is about more than one day of the year

While it was RUOK? Day last week, the mental health challenge for businesses owners and, indeed, the whole community is a 365 day a year challenge.

Recent Bureau of Statistics figures reinforce why this is a 365 day a year challenge:

As an employer of many 15-34 year olds, the stat for suicide is horrifying. The broader suicide rate in Australia is horrifying.

We have written a few times here about mental health. Not as an expert, because we are not experts. Rather, our interest is as an employer and as someone who craves for a healthier and happier country.

We share here today a revised version of information we have shared here before on this topic, and in particular about the mental health of newsagents and those in our businesses.

Despite all the ads on TV, despite the work of R U OK?, despite the work of agencies like Beyondblue, despite the stories in the media, mental health, especially mental health within the small business community, and especially the newsagency community, is not talked about.

The challenge is that we cannot always see unhealthiness. If someone is physically unhealthy, we can usually see it, but not mental unhealthiness. For sure there are occasional signs like behavioural outbursts that don’t make sense but you can’e be sure and often you don’t want to ask for fear of making it worse.

In small business retail and in our channel there are challenges that can make things worse: bullying landlords, overbearing suppliers, demanding customers, relentless competitors. These and other factors can make someone see the road ahead through clouded eyes. For some of those on the other side, however, how they handle a situation could be driven by how the small business has dealt with it up to then.

We are all for personal accountability and often say we need to own our own situation – we sign our leases, we sign magazine contracts, we go into business. However, we do these things expecting fairness. Too often there are people on the other side of a commercial relationship who do not act with fairness.

Social media is a factor with mental health as it gives everyone a megaphone and the ability to publish an opinion without thinking it through. In schools social media is a big focus in mental health awareness, especially around bullying.

It is hard to know the mental health of anyone. That person smiling at you or joking with you could be in a dark place in their mind. This is why it is important we talk and ask colleagues how they are doing and why we all need to help when we think help could be what is needed.

In the workplace, we think being open with each other so that everyone has a shared and open experience. If there are business performance issues, rather than keeping them secret, talking about them could help ease tension: a problem shared and all that…

There are wonderful resources from government departments available. For example, The Victorian Government has a page online on this topic, which includes good practical advice:

  1. Make time to exercise each day: For example, a simple daily lunch time walk can help maintain a positive outlook.
  2. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness means being aware of your reactions/feelings/thoughts as you have them. This helps you choose how to manage matters as they arise. Mindfulness is a great tool to help lower stress and anxiety levels.
  3. Adopt work/life boundaries: Don’t let work overtake your life. Set some boundaries to ensure you have time for both work and a social life. You might decide not to discuss work from 5pm Friday night to 8am Monday morning because weekends are for family time only.
  4. Connect with others: Find someone worthy of your stories – a confidant or mentor you can talk to about your business experiences. Make sure this person is supportive, a good listener and someone whose opinion you value.

This website also lists indicators:

  1. Physical signs: For example, a constant knot in your stomach, tense neck and shoulders, feeling nauseous, heart palpitations or chest pains.
  2. Changes in behaviour: For example, being unable to sleep, crying regularly, feeling moody or often irritable, increase or loss of appetite.
  3. Unclear thinking: For example, not being able to make decisions, not understanding directions, not being able to focus, being inattentive.
  4. Feeling sad or anxious regularly: We all have bad days – they’re a normal part of life. This flag needs attention if you begin to notice feeling like this regularly.
  5. Disconnecting from others: This may include not joining in social activities, choosing to spend time away from family and friends or stopping hobbies/sporting activities.
  6. Feeling overwhelmed: It is difficult to find solutions to problems, and in some instances it feels like they are insurmountable. Problem solving becomes difficult

And it lists useful resources:

  1. Business In MindBusiness In Mind is an online resource specifically designed to support business owners who may be experiencing mental health challenges.
  2. Beyond Blue beyondblue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.
  3. The Ripple Effect: A resource for rural communities that addresses suicide in rural areas.(Ph: 03 5551 8587)
  4. Sane provides online information, support and connection for every Australian affected by complex mental illness through its website, peer-to-peer forums and helpline. SANE also has a range of factsheets on managing mental health in the workplace. (Ph: 1800 18 7263)

Our approach to mental health as business owners has to be continuous, on-going. It can’t be a one day of the year focus or a stunt. It has to be part of how we run our businesses, everyday.

In our experience, talking is key – offering an environment where people can talk, where they know it is safe to talk, where they are encouraged to talk and where active listening happens. While it is not always perfect and does not always achieve what is hoped for, it is documented as being valuable.

While RUOK? Day today is important for awareness, that awareness and engagement need to be year-long.

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Happy Father’s Day

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ATO warns small businesses on sales suppression software

The ABC has reported the ATO is clamping down on small businesses using sales suppression software to minimise tax.

Ms Jenkins said the ATO was also cracking down on the use of sales suppression software that disguised the transactions within a company’s records.

“There is some really sophisticated software out there that is helping people avoid paying the right amount of tax.

“But whether it is cashless payments or whether it is the use of platforms or apps, it means there is really a trace of your transactions.

“We use merchant data and other sources of information to identify where things just don’t look right. Then we go and have a chat to them and say, ‘Hey, can you explain?’

In the mid 1990s there was sales suppression scam operating in the newsagency channel. I became aware of it because my newsagency software company lost businesses because we refused to offer such a facility.

There was a software program into which the retailer could enter a code and then an amount of cash they wanted to take out of the business unreported. A second set of records was maintained for the ATO and another records for the business owner.

I know because the software was demonstrated to me several times, by someone who had worked for the software company that created the software. They had approached me. I did some more checking with newsagents and discovered the facility in the software was being used.

The matter was reported to the ATO. At their then Box Hill office in Victoria they assembled a task force including representatives from the ATO, Federal Police, Federal Attorney General office. Victorian State Revenue and Victorian Attorney General office. Several of us with knowledge were brought in for a demonstration of the software. There were several follow up meetings with the ATO in Sydney.

Eventually, my software company stopped losing sales due to us not having the tax avoidance facility in our software.

Any retailer deliberately and systematically underreporting their income to avoid tax deserves what they get from the ATO and from any suppliers they impact through their actions.

  1. We refuse to help any retailer avoid tax.
  2. We will not code for tax avoidance in o0ur software.
  3. We will report it if we see it.
  4. Retailers and taxpayers need to be able to trust POS software.
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How our POS software company helps retailers go cashless if they want

Cashless retail is a thing. It is growing in retail, especially small business retail where trading in cash is challenging with banks withdrawing services and some increasing fees for handling cash.

Tower Systems, in its POS software, helps small business retailers transact without cast cost effectively, safely and quickly. We do this in myriad ways including…

Lower cost direct EFTPOS. We have negotiated excellent, competitive, rates for our 3,000+ customers for direct connect broadband EFTPOS, making accessing EFTPOS cheaper as well as faster and safer. This makes using EFTPOS at the counter as fast as cash if not actually faster.

Direct integration with EFTPOS. This means there is no extra keying of sales amounts, no separate terminal. No slower process for handling. Fewer mistakes. Easier end of shift balancing. More certainty for customers and for the business.

Easier access to cashflow finance. Through the EFTPOS arrangement, there is access to cashflow finance that can help the business better managing capital needs with greater certainty given the flow of funds between EFTPOS and the business bank account.

Direct Xero integration. This means less keystrokes, less accounting and bookkeeping fees, less mistakes and greater business certainty thanks to a more robust base off data on which business decisions can be made.

Business process advice. This includes migrating your end of shift from cash and other payment methods to other only, eliminating the float, making services payments easier and more.

Tower Systems can help retail businesses that want to transition to cashless to achieve this. We are not advocating this as we recognise each business owner needs to make the decision that is right for them. Our message is we are here with a plan if you want it.

As retailers ourselves, the questions about whether to go cashless in retail as well as how to go cashless in retail are as real for us as other retailers. Indeed, these are questions we have right now … hence, our preparation of plans and considerations, so we are positioning ourselves for our retail businesses and are happy to share this with other retailers in our small business retail community.

Cashless is growing in use in retail. We think it is useful and appropriate for retailers to learn how to deal with this. We are here to be a sounding board for anyone interested.

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Advice for small business retailers on dealing with employee theft by a minor

This advice is from our vault of business management advice for indie small business retailers. This vault contains advice on many diverse aspects of small business management, often far removed from the POS software we are known for.

Today our advice is about how to deal with employee theft by a minor in a retail business.

If you suspect an employee aged under eighteen of theft from your business you need to be careful as to how you navigate this. It is important to take time to decide the appropriate plan of action before you approach the suspect to even investigate the matter. The wrong approach could have challenging consequences for you, your business and the person you suspect.

Our suggestion is that the moment you have a suspicion, invite the suspect and a parent in for a meeting. Have someone else there as well, as your witness.

  1. Present your evidence and invite their response.
  2. Ensure you are civil, factual and not emotional.
  3. Listen to their response without interruption.
  4. If they ask what you want to do about it, be sure you have a reasonable response ready. If there is agreement on this, move forward.
  5. If there is not agreement on what you propose, or if they deny the theft, you need to be ready with your next course of action. This course of action should be reasonable and focussed on getting to verifiable truth.

If there is agreement that theft occurred and the employee is casual, my suggestion is immediate termination with you paying out what is owed by law. Put it behind you. Never speak of it outside the business. To constantly revisit it, especially outside a major city, can be debilitating.

If there is not agreement, ask they other side what they want to do. It could be that even though they deny it they are happy to walk away from the business. If this is not the case, you could suggest mediation. The Fair Work Obmudsman office could possible play a role here. You could equally suggest that both sides take the matter to the police.

The reality is that once you make a complaint to parents you have to be prepared to follow through, to see the matter to a reasonable end.

My core message today is that handling the suspected theft by someone under eighteen takes care and planning, to ensure that you, your business and the suspect are all dealt with fairly and safely.

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Get a video recording of your live POS software demonstration and questions

In a demonstration of a commitment to customer service and transparency, Tower Systems is leveraging secure, smart and mobile technology to offer anyone a free video of the live and interactive demonstration of the Tower POS software.

This is an offer for any retail business owner, their consultant or their accountant. It is risk free, putting the needs of the customer at the centre.

Thanks to smart online meeting technology, we can bring together retail business partners, their accountant and others for an online, live and interactive demonstration of our POS software. Better still, we offer you a video recording of the demo every question you ask, and our answers.

While we welcome live in-store demonstrations, with work scheduled today and distance, online live demonstrations are more popular. Here at Tower Systems we have invested in technology to deliver a quality online demonstration where there software is shown live, all questions are answered and open discussion is encouraged.

Our demonstrations are 100% customer driven. This is why a video of the demonstration is good as it reflects the personalised nature of what has been covered, the questions that are business specific that have been answered. The approach demonstrates the realness of the approach taken by Tower Systems in serving customers.

If you have ever wanted to recall, for certain, answers given or promises made in a sales situation, we make it easy because, to us, transparency matters.

The demonstration video offer from Tower Systems its another way the company backs itself, its promises and its personal service. It demonstrates a point of difference that small business owners love because … retail is personal … after all.

We offer locally developed and highly tuned software for specialty retail businesses including garden centres, produce / farm supply businesses, jewellers, bike retailers, pet stores, toy shops, gift shops, homewares shops, fishing and outdoor businesses, newsagents and adult shops.

To find out more about our POS software and support for specialty retailers…

  • WA / SA/ VIC: Tim Batt. 0401 833 917.
  • NSW / ACT / TAS: Nathan Morrison. 0417 568 148.
  • QLD / NT: Justin Randall. 0434 365 789.

Tower Systems is an Australian POS software company serving 3,500+ specialty retailers in Australia and New Zealand.

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How our POS software co. helps small business retailers pitch their economic value

Through a range of assets, our POS software company helps small business retailers pitch the value of small businesses and local retail businesses in Australia.

These assets are readily available for any to use. Many are unbranded, too, making their use even easier.

We research the content we create and ensure it is accurate as well as easily understood for people in the community. We want them to pick up on the small business value narrative and through this better support small businesses, especially small business retail.

We are grateful for the opportunity to serve in this way.

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Happy Easter from Tower Systems

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Our POS software co. helps small business retailers pitch small business

Here is a new infographic we created to help small business retailers pitch their economic value. We have made this available for use at no cost.

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Help for small business retailers from our POS software co.

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Our POS software company supports shop local

Here is a video we have provided for our customers to use on social media.

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Thinking our our Christchurch customers

We are thinking of our Christchurch, NZ, customers today and the challenges ahead for them and our New Zealand customers more broadly as they confront the reality of what has happened today.

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Our POS software co helps retailers say thank you

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POS software as a community service

We are grateful for the opportunity to help community organisations access our POS software for a fraction of the usual cost, through our community support program.

For many years, we have helped community organisations that do good and valuable works, by providing access to our software on an on0-going basis sometimes free, sometimes for a token cost.

This community work is part of the Tower giving program where we help community organisations spread the joy off their community works with greater surety and efficiency.

We appreciate being able to do this.

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Beware this email scam

A client received this email recently…

Hello!

I’m a programmer who cracked your email and device a few months ago.
You entered a pass on one of the sites you visited, and I intercepted it.
This is your password from  xxx@xxx.com on moment of hack:
XXXXX

Of course you can will change it, or already changed it.
But it doesn’t matter, my malware updated it every time.

Do not try to contact me or find me, it is impossible (in ‘from address’ is
a random contact).

Through your email, I uploaded malicious code to your Operation System.
I saved all of your contacts with friends, colleagues, relatives and a
complete history of visits to the Internet resources.
Also I installed a Trojan on your device and long tome spying for you.

You are not my only victim, I usually lock computers and ask for a ransom.
But I was struck by the sites of intimate content that you often visit.

I am in shock of your fantasies! I’ve never seen anything like this!

So, when you had fun on piquant sites (you know what I mean!) I made
screenshot with using my program from your camera of yours device.
After that, I combined them to the content of the currently viewed site.

There will be laughter when I send these photos to your contacts!
BUT I’m sure you don’t want it.

Therefore, I expect payment from you for my silence.
I think $868 is an acceptable price for it!

Pay via Bitcoin.
My BTC wallet: XXXX

If you do not know how to do this – enter into Google “how to transfer money
to a bitcoin wallet”. It is not difficult.
After receiving the specified amount, all your data will be immediately
destroyed automatically. My virus will also remove itself from your
operating system.

My Trojan have auto alert, after this email is read, I will be know it!

I give you 2 days (48 hours) to make a payment.
If this does not happen – all your contacts will get crazy shots from your
dark secret life!
And so that you do not obstruct, your device will be blocked (also after 48
hours)

Do not be silly!
Police or friends won’t help you for sure …

p.s. I can give you advice for the future. Do not enter your passwords on
unsafe sites.

I hope for your prudence.
Farewell.

This email is a scam. It was mentioned by the federal government recently as a scam, too. The best protection is to ensure you have your data backed up in the cloud, that you change passwords regularly and that you do not pay the ransom.

Note: we have removed identifying details from the email.

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We help small business retailers appreciate teachers

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Helping dog-friendly small business retailers pitch to dog owners

Here is a short video we created for our dog-loving small business retailer customers to use to promote their shops and businesses to dog lovers they welcome.

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