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Wednesday, October 26, 2022

These Scams Target Small Businesses

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pixabay

Owning a small business is never easy.  During a typical work week, an owner has to deal with all kinds of issues involving everything from employees and distributors to customers and suppliers.  As a result, it doesn't take long for something to slip between the cracks.  If that something happens to be a scam targeting your business, the resulting financial loss could not only hurt your bottom line, it could derail or even destroy your livelihood.  To help you identify and avoid the most prevalent small business scams, I've come up with a top-10 list that you and your employees can use to keep from being duped.

#1: Supply Scams - If your business is anything like mine, then you routinely order office supplies.  While you probably think you can't be duped into paying for supplies, that's exactly what some con artists are counting on.  Typical supply scams include sending your company bills for items you didn't order or possibly didn't even receive.  Items like copy paper, toner, and pens get used so routinely that some owners don't think twice before paying what looks to be a legitimate invoice.  (This same scam can also be used to bilk you for fake advertising you never authorized.) Make sure you and your staff look twice before paying any invoice sent to your company.  Also, be doubly sure you don't pay twice for the same supplies since some scammers aren't reluctant about double billing you.

#2: Hold the Phone - While you may think that your company phones are a lifeline to profits, con artists can use them to rob you blind.  Posing as official authorities or agents of firms you do business with, phone scams are used to dupe you and your staff into divulging privileged information that could cost you a customer, compromise your security, or empty your bank account.  Never trust anyone who calls you out of the blue to demand you provide them with info.  Always call the entity named to find out if the request is real or bogus.  

#3: Sticky Fingers - One of the biggest loss leaders that many companies face is theft.  Whether conducted by insiders or visitors with sticky fingers, before your supplies, office electronics, files, or anything else of value disappears, institute a policy to protect your assets.  In many places of business, oodles of people come and go during office hours.  This is an ideal time to make off with anything of value.  Establish a gatekeeper to keep you from being an easy mark.

#4: Remote Control Ripoff - The sad fact is con artists don't have to enter your place of business to do you harm.  Not if they can crack your electronic security to gain access to your server.  All too many small businesses leave their office electronics woefully unprotected.  This is like rolling out the red carpet for hackers who can rifle your data or install software that lets them see and hear everything that goes on at your business or copies every keystroke that you or your employees make.  Once your system is cracked, you could find yourself locked out or your data held hostage until you pay a substantial ransom.  Make sure all your your server and router are protected and their software is up to date.  Change your passwords at least once a year and make sure all your connected devices are secure.

#5: Email for Fun & Profit - Phishing emails have gotten surprisingly sophisticated.  Today a sender can spoof everything from the identity of the sender to the URL of the sending entity.  Should you receive an email from your bank, the IRS, or anyone you do business with, think twice before clicking on any link provided or you could fall right into a trap that will give the sender access to your device.  

#6: Lawsuit Larceny - This is another variation on the phishing email scam where you receive an email or text threatening a lawsuit unless you respond in a timely manner.  If you do contact the sender, you will be threatened with legal action unless you pay up.  This kind of threat is sometimes used to carpet bomb various industries to line unscrupulous attorney's pockets, since the amount needed to make the sender cease and desist is less than it costs to take them to court.  If you get one of these "Pay up or else" emails, don't respond personally.  Have your attorney call to see if they can head the scammer off at the pass.  It also wouldn't hurt to do an internet search to find out if this kind of tactic is being employed against other businesses in your industry.

#7: Unauthorized Electronic Transfers - Recently the FBI has been flooded with complaints from small businesses whose bank accounts have been taken over by third parties.  The problem is that consumer protection isn't extended to businesses who find themselves subjected to unauthorized electronic fund transfers caused by negligence.  As a result, if you report a loss that was caused because of lax online security, your bank may refuse to refund the amount pilfered from your account.  The best way to thwart this threat is to opt-in for 2-factor authentication that requires your bank to text you an authorization code any time anyone tries to access your bank account.

#8: You're Fired - Anytime you let an employee go, you need to make sure their firing can't come back to haunt you.  This can be particularly devastating if the person fired had access to any sensitive information, customer information, or company accounts.  Firing an employee can inadvertently fire them up enough to try to harm you or your company.  The best way to prevent sabotage is to make sure you change their passwords and inform any providers and clients they had contact with that they are no longer with the company.

#9: It's Your Lucky Day! - If you receive a message telling you that your business has won an award or it's been selected as a top business, make sure you aren't required to click on a link or pay a fee to collect your prize.  Once you do either, you may quickly come to find that the award is either bogus and you have been scammed or hacked.  

10: Charitable Con-tributions - Every going concern gets solicited by a charity sooner or later.  The problem is today there are con artists who make a nice living pitching fake charities.  This scam runs the gamut from setting up a phony charity based on a recent natural disaster, to misrepresenting a trusted charitable organization to get you to cough up your hard-earned money.  If someone calls you for a donation, make sure you're dealing with a representative of a bonafide charity before you give a gift to a criminal.  

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida Insurance in Orange Park, Florida. To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com



2 comments:

  1. You work hard enough to make a living. Don't let some lazy thug steal what little you have.

    ReplyDelete
  2. As an owner of a small business I am always on the look out for tips to protect my business. Thanks for these tips, they're great.

    ReplyDelete

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