Scammers are everywhere. From email to phones to social media, the internet makes it easy for them to take advantage of people and steal their money. Unfortunately, more and more of these crimes are happening to small business owners. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a freelancer, you need to know how to protect your business from scammers. Here’s how:
Most Common Business Scams
The most common scams that affect small businesses are phishing and email spoofing.
Phishing is a scam in which thieves send emails to trick recipients into revealing their personal information, such as passwords and card numbers. The thief will often pretend to be a business or organization they’re not to get the recipient to click on a link or download an attachment containing malware.
Email spoofing is when scammers change an email’s “from” address to make it look like it came from someone else. This can happen even if you’ve never given the sender any personal information. For example, suppose your company’s website was hacked and someone changed the email address at the bottom of your home page from “firstname.lastname@example.org” to “email@example.com”. If someone tries to contact your company for help with a problem, they’ll actually be talking with a different company.
You might not think this would happen to your business, but it’s surprisingly easy for hackers to get into your accounts these days. So don’t just assume you’re safe from these scams because you’re small!
It’s estimated that $1.8 billion in fraudulent or counterfeit checks were intercepted by the US Secret Service in 2016 alone.
The most common type of banking scam is when someone calls you and impersonates an individual at your bank. They will try to convince you to deposit fraudulent checks into your account, usually for a percentage of the initial deposit amount. Once they receive your money, you’ll never hear from them again.
However, this is not the only type of banking scam out there. The IRS has issued warnings about tax scams involving people claiming to be calling from an agency like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These scammers may ask for personal information over the phone, requesting you to send either cash or gift cards as payment for back taxes.
Credit Card Scams
One of the most common scams is when a credit card number is stolen and used to purchase goods. Scammers might steal your credit card information and charge your account for purchases they never made, or they might go on a shopping spree with your information.
The best defense against this type of scam? Always monitor your statements and reconcile them with receipts to make sure everything adds up. Don’t let scammers sneak by unnoticed.
Loss of Personal Information
When you apply for a loan, the scammers will gather your personal information. They can then use that information to steal your identity or commit other crimes. This is the first way that scammers will take advantage of your business.
One common type of scam is called a confidence scam. They’re more common on the telephone or online, but they can happen in person, too. This type of scammer will try to gain your trust by pretending to be someone they’re not. They might offer to help fix your computer for free, give you advice on how to get out of debt, or even just sell you some clothes that are supposedly too good to pass up.’
Confidence scams are really hard to spot because the person who’s scammed often doesn’t realize it until it’s too late. Thankfully, several red flags can help you spot a confidence scam before it’s too late.
The most important thing is to stay vigilant and don’t trust anyone who wants something from you without giving anything in return!
Phishing scams are some of the most common and devastating scams that happen to businesses. They’re emails that falsely appear as if they’re from a trusted source. The email might ask for personal or financial information, which the scammer would then use to steal your money or identity. According to Spokeo protect, there are ways you can protect yourself against phishing scams:
- Never open email attachments from people you don’t know who claim to be someone you know.
- Always wait for an official notification from your bank about an online transaction.
- Keep your software up-to-date with security patches so you can quickly identify any threats to your computer system.
Your website, email account, social media accounts, maybe even your phone are all targets for scammers. You need to ensure that you’re taking the proper precautions to protect your business from this type of crime.
A few cybersecurity principles can help you stay safe. The first is called “defense in depth”-this means that you should use different security methods to protect yourself online. For example, using a VPN and encryption software helps prevent hackers from accessing your data or stealing your identity.
Another principle is “least privilege”-this means that you should only give people access to the things they need to do their job. If someone doesn’t need access to sensitive information, don’t give them access, and there’s no reason for them to have it if they don’t really need it.
Finally, IT professionals set up “honeypots” – fake systems as traps for hackers. Honeypots use various tricks like sending out fake emails to lure criminals into thinking they’ve found an easy target and tricking them into giving up information about themselves or what they’re doing.
The Human Factor
The human factor is the scammers’ greatest weapon, and they take advantage of people’s kindness and trust and use them against them. For this reason, always be on the lookout for anything suspicious or even just a little bit off.
For example, if someone asks you to wire money, and if something seems off about the request (like they won’t provide information about their business), don’t do it. If you feel like you’re being pressured into something that doesn’t seem right, don’t do it.
You may also want to investigate unfamiliar websites or email addresses before you click on their links or open any attachments they’ve sent you. Be sure to check social media profiles as well before following them back or accepting friend requests from strangers.
Ensure your Small Business Safety
The best way to protect your business is to keep scammers at bay. Follow these tips and tricks for small business safety:
- Keep your Personal Information Secure: Treat your social media accounts as if they were your credit card or bank account. Scammers will target you as a means of getting access to sensitive information about you and your business, so be careful what you share on social media. For example, don’t reveal too much about your company.
- Avoid using public WiFi networks and make sure that any passwords for both private and public networks are long and complex.
- Make sure that any emails from unknown sources are deleted without opening them. If you’re unsure about something, don’t click anything to find out more; call the sender instead.
- Ask for an email address before giving anyone access to any person or business account (think Skype, Gmail, Facebook). This information should match the domain name that the person claims they represent (i.e., @gmail.com or @facebookmail).
If someone is asking for sensitive information from you on behalf of a company, they’ll need it first to give you what you’re requesting. It’s also important to verify.
Every small business needs a way to protect itself from scams. The best protection is awareness and vigilance, whether it’s an email or phone call asking for sensitive information.