Avoiding online scams: small business edition
You have enough to worry about – your business finances, taking care of your employees, giving your customers what they need, and attracting new ones, to name but a few. The last thing you need is to have to worry about staying safe from potential scammers.
But business scams can and do happen, and while you might think that the criminals are only after big businesses, research shows that nearly half of small to medium sized businesses have been targeted by fraudsters.
And while scams have always happened, the internet gives more opportunity than ever before to fraudsters, especially when their potential victims might not be quite so aware of the threats.
Perhaps the best known online scams are the stories of, for example, an individual in a foreign country asking for money to help ‘release funds’, with the promise of vast returns for an upfront payment. A clear scam, and one which most of us would simply laugh off.
However, phishing scams have become much more sophisticated in recent years, and businesses are being tricked into handing over large sums of money.
Fraudsters might imitate legitimate suppliers, hoping that you’ll fall victim to paying their ‘invoice’. And another type of scam – the ‘CEO fraud’ – is also duping employees into making business payments, with the perpetrator impersonating a senior figure within the business while making the request.
It is important to be aware of the potential of the internet when it comes to increasingly sophisticated scams. Check email addresses and other identifiers to make sure you’re absolutely sure who you’re communicating with, and always err on the side of caution.
Malware and ransomware
While not technically ‘scams’ in the truest sense, an unprotected PC, phone or even network can help hackers to wreak havoc on your business.
If your systems are infected with keyloggers, criminals might have easy access to your passwords, for example. And ransomware can enable the hacker to lock access to your system (and even delete your important files) should a ransom payment not be made.
The importance of good antivirus software, firewalls, installing the latest security updates and especially of taking a cautious, common-sense approach, cannot be overstated.
Discretion is the better part of valour
Safeguarding against scams and other online threats is often a case of prevention rather than cure. And taking a cautious approach can help to keep your business safe.
With that in mind, here are some of the things you can do to keep your business safe.
- Ensure that your antivirus, antimalware and firewall software is up to date.
- Install the latest manufacturer security patches when available.
- Don’t reuse passwords across multiple sites and systems.
- Keep passwords safe – and encourage employees to do the same.
- Always check links and email sender/recipient addresses carefully.
- Don’t send money unless you’re absolutely confident it is ok.
Taking a cautious approach to your security is never a bad thing – often helping to safeguard your business against many of the most common types of attack.