Showing posts from January, 2022

About Start Software

Start Software is an award-winning developer and leading publisher of asbestos software, systems for the legal services industry and more.

Want to know more about asbestos software Alpha Tracker? Alpha Tracker is the most used asbestos software in the UK, Australia & New Zealand with more than 60m items of asbestos data stored.

Our legal services software Alpha Legal helps will writers, accountants, solicitors, IFAs and estate agents to communicate securely with clients. Read about developments here on the blog.

Or need help with Alpha Anywhere or Alpha Transform projects or software development? You'll find useful info here.

Warning! Scammers are circling as millions have yet to file their tax returns

There's an important and interesting story on the BBC News today.  It's a warning about email scammers taking advantage of the upcoming tax return deadline:

Scammers are taking advantage of the tax return deadline

The report goes on to say:
The scams show fraudsters have piggy-backed on the fact that many people expect correspondence from HMRC at this time of year, given it sends out four million legitimate letters and texts, according to Charlie Shakeshaft, founder of Individual Protection Solutions - which runs a membership scam alert programme.

"This is a useful smokescreen for scam artists, because messages might not appear to people to have come out of the blue," he said.

"But it is the time to be most vigilant."

HMRC has recorded considerable success in reducing the number of so-called phishing messages in the last year.

New cyber controls had prevented 90% of the most convincing text messages from reaching the public, it said, and in June last year 51 people were arrested at two call centres in Delhi, India, that were dedicated to facilitating HMRC scams.
Take care - hackers using phishing techniques will be really active over the next couple of weeks.  Remember - emails are not secure and Alpha Legal is an easy, safe and secure way to protect you clients and your business.

Alpha Legal featured in Modern Law magazine

It's great to see Alpha Legal featured in Modern Law magazine

Do get in touch if you think we might be able to help your legal business to be more efficient and more secure - that's what we're here for!

Message received, loud and clear! You've told us what you like and don't like about the Alpha Tracker interface

Thanks to everyone who completed our Alpha Tracker questionnaire.  It's still available if you still want to give us your opinion, see

The areas of the interface you were most happy with were projects and invoicing

The areas you were least happy with were quotes and diary

Overall, users said that Alpha Tracker was easy to use but wished it opened more quickly.

We've taken all of the feedback on board and we'll make use of it in Release 38.  Watch this space!

Alpha Tracker admin training for Element staff - what a lovely group of staff!

Kim had a lovely time with the admin staff at asbestos specialist Element helping them to develop their knowledge of asbestos software Alpha Tracker.

The Element asbestos admin staff

If you'd like some more training to develop your knowledge of Alpha Tracker, do get in touch!  We can offer bespoke training sessions, either in-person or via Zoom/Teams, for admin staff, asbestos surveyors, asbestos project managers or asbestos duty holders.

Another Alpha Legal update has been published - let us know what you think!

Dan has just published the latest Alpha Legal update and all of our wonderful subscribers have access to the latest features.

Alpha Legal has been updated again

We've improved:
  • the meeting planner - it's perfect for scheduling meetings between you and your clients - especially when there are multiple attendees needed, perhaps around the world!

  • the e-signature feature, especially when your clients have comments and corrections to make on the document 

  • our form designer, enabling us to have multi-page forms to help clients with complex requests for information.
If you have any questions about this release or have ideas for future updates, do get in touch!

We're chuffed with this one! We've given Alpha Tracker the smartest search in the industry - say hello to Intellisearch

Watch out for our new Intellisearch feature in Alpha Tracker Release 38 - it's a game-changer!

We've made the Search box do everything - with one click!

The Menu Search box made an appearance a few years ago and I reminded people about it last month, here:

Being able to search all of the menu items is really useful - but we've just made it even better!

You can now search for pretty much anything just by typing into this one box.  In addition to being able to search the menu, users can now type in:
  • project numbers, to open a specific project

  • client names or client IDs

  • site or job names, and even

  • surveyor names to see what they are working on.
I can imagine the rest of the asbestos software industry seeing this feature and copying it (like so many of the updates we include in Alpha Tracker!).  Just remember that you saw it here first!

Alpha Legal is now a For Legal partner. Check out our video content

Alpha Legal is now a channel partner with For Legal, the video learning platform for the legal industry.

Watch Alpha Legal's videos on the For Legal platform

Check out our content here:

Alpha Legal outage Saturday 22.1.2022 - we're really sorry

After a week of apologies on the daily news, it is our turn to apologise.

A sorry Prime Minister.  Take that any way you like!

We're really sorry that Alpha Legal wasn't available earlier today.  We use the world's biggest and most secure cloud computing environment to power Alpha Legal, Amazon AWS, but today it let us down.  A problem with an overnight update caused Alpha Legal to be unavailable.

Our technical staff in the UK and US worked solidly all day to resolve the issue but we are very sorry for the inconvenience this will have caused our professional subscribers and their clients.  

If you need any more information about the outage today or the actions we have taken to prevent a reoccurrence, do get in touch.

Growing numbers caught out by the "Dear Mum" scams... watch out for WhatsApp as well as email "phishing"

We all know that emails are not secure - and that "phishing" is one of the most common methods that scammers use.  

Watch out for WhatsApp - don't believe every message you receive

A timely warning was published in The Times yesterday about "Dear Mum" phishing messages that arrive via WhatsApp:

Growing numbers of people are losing thousands of pounds to scams asking them to send money to family and friends supposedly in need.

Victims of “Dear Mum” scams are usually contacted by fraudsters on WhatsApp. They pretend that they have lost or damaged their phone and are having to message from a new number. However, they can also fake contact details, making the fraud even more convincing.

The scammers prey on parents by asking them for money to buy a new phone or to pay an urgent bill because they are in financial difficulty, providing their bank details so that the cash can be transferred.

Banks said there was a rise in reports of the scam at the end of last year. The last three months of 2021 saw a fourfold rise in “friends and family” scams reported to Barclays compared with the previous three months. The average loss was £1,242, which could be from multiple payments. Action Fraud, a fraud reporting service, said some victims had lost more than £3,000.

Here at Alpha Legal, we have also heard of work-related WhatsApp scams where messages appear to come from managers or directors, asking staff to take urgent action to transfer money or buy Amazon vouchers as company gifts.  Take care - phishing can happen via almost every communication system.

Another reminder of the importance of making asbestos registers available to all

Farming Life has just reported a company fined £15,000 where staff were unaware of the existence of asbestos and were exposed to the deadly substance during refurbishment works.

Oriental Developments Limited were fined £15,000 for not managing asbestos properly

Alpha Tracker, like most asbestos software systems, has the ability to make asbestos registers available via QR code.  In fact, we fully support the UKNAR (UK National Asbestos Register) initiative to make all asbestos registers available via a simple QR code, ensuring that staff working in a building, either as employees or contractors, can be aware of asbestos present on site.

If you want to know more about QR codes in Alpha Tracker, or use another asbestos software system that doesn't support QR codes, do get in touch.  We'd love to hear from you.

Another reminder for property letting agents - the importance of verifying landlord *and* tenant IDs

We just spotted this useful post about the importance of verifying the ID of landlords as well as tenants when letting properties:

Take care to verify the ID of landlords as well as tenants - Alpha Legal handles them both

Alpha Legal handles all of this for you - from the simple ID form that takes the user through the process of capturing valid photos of their identity documents (driving licence, passport, bank statement, utility bill) through to the verification of the ID with our partners, TrustID.

Government newsflash! Video-witnessed wills legalisation extended

The Ministry of Justice has announced that anyone isolating can continue to have wills witnessed virtually until January 2024 - hugely extending the existing deadline.

Welcome announcement from MoJ - video-witnessed wills extended 

The MoJ press release says:

"Vulnerable people across England and Wales will continue to be able to have their wills witnessed via video-link up until 2024, under legislation laid today (11 January 2022) to extend measures brought in during the pandemic.

The change will extend until 2024 this ability for those who are forced to isolate either with covid or from another vulnerability. This will reassure all those who need to use this provision that their final wishes are legally-recognised as witnesses previously had to be physically present.

Law Society research has found that around 14 percent of legal professionals who had been involved in making a will since the change in 2020 had used software such as Zoom or FaceTime for witnessing wills.

To protect people against undue influence and fraud, two witnesses are still required and virtual witnessing is only recognised if the quality of the sound and video is sufficient to see and hear what is happening."

We have big plans here at Alpha Legal to help clients to witness documents virtually - watch this space. 

Meet support apprentices Zac & James

Support apprentices Zac & James are doing a great job on our support desk (see this blog post for more information about our performance in December).

They are going to be featured in an apprenticeship article to encourage more teenagers to apply to be technology apprentices.  Here's the photo that's going to press!

Zac & James on our office balcony

"Keep up the good work" - a thank you received from Enviraz Technical Manager Stephen Moffat

We've just announced our Alpha Tracker plans for 2022 - and what big plans there are!

We’re expecting 3 major releases over the next 12 months:

  • Release 38 will be ready by the Spring.  We’ll have completed the Zapier work, 360-degree photos (see this blog and this one) and a very exciting new integration – more details to follow on this!

  • Release 39 will be a major Summer update to improve the user interface.  We’re making Alpha Tracker faster, easier to use and easier on the eye.   It will also be much easier to use on a tablet or smartphone

  • Release 40 in the Autumn will help you make the most of the cloud.  We’re moving away from relying on individual servers to give you more and more flexibility in how you deploy Alpha Tracker to reduce your costs and increase flexibility.

Stephen Moffat, Technical Manager at asbestos specialist Enviraz, replied to our 2022 plan email with some lovely comments.  Here they are for you to read:

Lovely comments from Stephen (Enviraz)

RPP asbestos consultancy goes live with Alpha Tracker Air Monitoring

Another asbestos surveying consultancy - RPP - has gone live with the asbestos air monitoring module within Alpha Tracker.

RPP are now live with Alpha Tracker air monitoring

Kim enjoyed meeting the asbestos analysts at their training session.  Welcome on board RPP!

Alert to estate and letting agents - "more and more" cyber attacks on companies in the sector

The Guild of Property Professionals has issued an important warning to estate and letting agents today about the increase in cybercrime.

Cybercrime is on the increase - again - and Alpha Legal can protect you

Paul Offley, compliance officer at The Guild of Property Professionals, said: “It seems that the property sector is a prime target among cybercriminals and every few weeks we hear of more cases where businesses have been hacked and someone has got into their system and is trying to defraud consumers."

“The criminals who are behind these cases seem to be intelligent individuals who can mirror emails and make it look as though the information that is sent by them to consumers appears to be legitimate and as if it is coming from the business."

“These types of cases are on the rise and is something that I believe will continue to increase as we go into 2022.”

Offley’s warning comes after over two months of uncertainty about the impact of the alleged ransomware attack on the Simplify Group of conveyancing firms (which we blogged about, here), which are reportedly involved in some five per cent of residential transactions.

This area of risk is exactly where Alpha Legal can help.  Our mantra at Alpha Legal is that emails are *not* secure.  Alpha Legal has been built from the ground up to be an easy, safe & secure way to ask clients for confidential and sensitive information including ID and bank details.

Tell us what you think! We're improving the Alpha Tracker user interface, what would you like us to change?

Can you spare a few minutes to let us know what you think?

Please complete this questionnaire if you can - it will take 2 minutes at most!

We're working on the Alpha Tracker user interface to make the product even faster and easier to use.

Here's a quick questionnaire -  Can you please help us by filling it in?  

Thanks in advance!

Do you use Clio in your business? We're looking to publish Alpha Legal into the Clio app store

Clio is one of the most widely used systems in the legal industry.

Clio's motto is "Run your law firm from anywhere"

Clio's approach to business is very similar to ours, embracing other products via their "API" if it helps our mutual clients to do their day-to-day business.

We've started a conversation with Clio about integrating Alpha Legal with their app storeLet us know if this will help you and your business!

Support desk performance in December - 90% of tickets were resolved in time

December 2021 proved to be a quiet month on the support desk with the team fielding 576 calls from clients and users.

This isn't a real person on our support desk... but our team are too shy for photos (they say!!!)

Overall, 93% of high priority issues were solved within 2 hours and nearly 90% of all tickets were closed within the timescales set by the caller.

2021 was a record year for cyber-criminals - $14bn dollars worth of scams!

Alpha Legal is designed to protect you and your clients from cyber-criminals.  By giving you safe, secure and easy mechanisms to communicate with your clients, we are helping to minimise the risks you face online.

With everyone working in the "new normal" now, onboarding clients remotely and working via Zoom and not face-to-face, cyber-criminals are having a field day and exploiting businesses who are still reliant on insecure methods of communication such as email.  Remember - emails are not secure - and Alpha Legal's documents, forms and ID processing give you a safe and easy alternative.

Cyber-crime is on the increase, year-on-year

In 2021, cyber-criminals used scams to extract more than $14bn worth of cryptocurrency from their victims.  This is a record amount and shockingly high.  Cryptocurrency is generally used by scammers because it is virtually impossible to trace.  Ransomware, in particular, generates vast amounts of income for criminal gangs.

We've recorded a useful video here about ransomware to help you to understand the problem and how to protect yourself from this most evil of crimes:

We'll be posting more videos shortly about other types of cyber-attack and how you can protect yourself.  If you'd like us to record videos on any topic in particular, do get in touch.

The Alpha Tracker User Guide has been updated

We've just updated the Alpha Tracker User Guide on our website.

Click Support|Manuals|Alpha Tracker to see it - the latest version is 1.29.

You can also click this link to download the manual straight to your phone, tablet or laptop:

New "explainer" video to help clients to complete their ID request form

We've been working on a new video that will go out with the Alpha Legal ID requests to clients.  The video will help clients prepare for the process and reduce the number of queries.

An extract from the ID explainer video

Can we ask a favour, please?  If you click this link or the video, below, you can preview the video.  Can you please let us know what you think and how we could improve it?

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