Monday 10 May 2021 5:54 pm

West Midlands Trains 'scams' its own staff with email promising a pandemic bonus

A rail union has called out West Midlands Trains for emailing 2,500 employees with the empty promise of a pandemic bonus as part of a cybersecurity test.  

In the email staff were thanked for their efforts under the “huge strain” of the pandemic and that managing director, Julian Edwards, wanted to thank them with a one-off payment in recognition, according to the Guardian.

But staff who clicked on the link in the email were told it was actually just a “phishing simulation test” test by the IT team “to entice you to click the link and used both the promise of thanks and financial reward.”

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) union leader, Manuel Cortes, said: “This was a cynical and shocking stunt by West Midlands Trains, designed to trick employees who have been on the front line throughout this terrible pandemic – ensuring essential workers were able to travel.”

West Midlands Trains said: “Fraud cost the transport industry billions of pounds every year. This important test was deliberately designed with the sort of language used by real cyber criminals but without the damaging consequences.”

Andrew McGill,  a West Midlands Train spokesperson, said: “It was fairly clear from the email that it was a phishing exercise. It was made clear to all of the recipients. It wasn’t actually front-line staff that received the email, it was manager grade staff, largely working in offices.”

Asked why they chose to use the pandemic bonus as the content for a cybersecurity test, McGill said: “Real cybercriminals will stoop to any lengths and tap into current issues so for it to be the most effective test of our systems it obviously made sense to replicate those sort of tactics.”

Cortes however said: “The company must now account for their totally crass and reprehensible behaviour. They could and should have used any other pretext to test their internet security. It’s almost beyond belief that they chose to falsely offer a bonus to workers who have done so much in the fight against this virus.”