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Scams have existed for as long as dishonest individuals aimed to get money or something else of value from consumers or businesses. But the revolution and advancements in the modern world’s technology have also brought swindlers to virtual platforms—giving rise to online scams.
Every day thousands of companies fall victim to a range of online scams. While all types and sizes of businesses are susceptible to scams, the losses may vary from a few hundred to even millions of lost dollars. With advancing technology, methods of fraud have kept pace, making it highly challenging for business owners to outsmart thieves. Even though scammers use various persuasion techniques, their central role as good salesmen makes them successful at doing what they do. By deliberately misleading and manipulating employees, scammers persuade enterprises to part with their money, often without even realizing it.
Small businesses are especially vulnerable to online scams. Since most are usually start-ups, they have limited resources and want to grow bigger without overspending. Fraudsters play this to their advantage and set traps to target these small businesses specifically. However, if SMEs can recognize and understand potential threats, they can significantly reduce the risk of getting caught up in a scam.
Here are five online scams every small business must especially be aware of.
Phishing schemes are possibly the most common form of online scams in the 21st century, and without appropriate security systems, businesses may quickly lose millions if they fall prey. Therefore, installing antivirus software after carefully evaluating them through DigitalSupermarket is crucial in protecting a company’s assets.
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The popularity of a phishing scheme mainly stems from how well and effectively it works. The main objective of any phishing scheme is to literally “fish” for a user’s sensitive information. Usually designed as authentic emails, they may pose as an organization you know and trust. A few years ago, an email inviting employees to edit a Google Doc went viral. However, after agreeing to edit the document, users unknowingly granted third-party software to access individuals’ emails and contacts. Hackers got access to personal information such as bank account numbers, credit card numbers, social security numbers, addresses, and much more. Sometimes, phishing emails may even pose as federal agencies like the IRS, creating a sense of panic and urging you to play into their hands without thinking.
To keep your business protected, it’s best to double-check who is asking for your information. Trust your instincts, and don’t give away anything personal without first confirming with the relevant agency.
Bargains or discount offers
It’s common for businesses to purchase SaaS (software as a service) applications and enterprise software such as Dropbox or Office 365. An unexpected email from an online seller offering these services at discounted prices may tempt business owners to purchase them. But often, these offers are too good to be true. Scammers base this fraud around companies you know and have done business with in the past to sell products they don’t have any intention of providing.
Criminals try to persuade owners to buy software at unbelievable prices and give invalid activation codes in return. So, even if you think you’re saving money, you end up purchasing a useless program. If you’re lucky, the worst thing to happen will be that you’ll lose some money. However, if you’ve given your credit card information, there’s a good possibility that a scammer will try and use those details to make further purchases.
Office supply scams
Another common online scam small businesses encounter is office supply scams. These refer to when a scammer sends reminder emails or calls you to re-order particular supplies such as a copier toner or paper. If someone from the company mistakenly agrees, you’ll soon receive an order of overpriced materials that aren’t from your regular supplier.
Since small businesses usually start with accepting samples from multiple suppliers before signing a contract with a regular, they’re more susceptible to this form of scam. Sometimes a scammer may even send office supplies hoping that companies pay for them before realizing they never ordered them in the first place. You must ensure your staff is well-aware of this ploy and designate specific team member(s) for ordering procedures.
Directory scams are a little more challenging to identify than most online scams. They convince individuals to provide details like addresses and contact numbers that may seem innocent but can cost the business plenty of money. In this case, chiselers contact a business staff member via email or other platforms, claiming to update the company’s information in an online or printed directory. They fail to mention the price of the listing, which you unknowingly give an okay to when you agree to provide them the details. After getting charged with a hefty bill, you may find out that the directory doesn’t exist. Scammers may even go as far as printing only enough copies of the directory to give out to the companies listed in it.
Once again, the best solution for protection against this scam is awareness. Train your team members to ignore any calls or emails asking for personal information and thoroughly conduct research before trusting any online marketer.
Many businesses, especially smallscale ones, are targets of vanity award schemes. These kinds of cons send emails or other forms of electronic messages to business owners, informing them of an allegedly “prestigious” award they’ve won. Although the statement may vary, it generally claims to give an award that features outstanding people of that particular industry’s field. Additionally, they may ask to contribute to cover necessary expenses such as printing costs or invitations for family and friends. In a vanity award scheme, businesses don’t win based on merit but for the sole intent of purchasing a certificate or plaque for an overblown price.
The easiest way to protect your business from falling into a vanity award scheme is by asking specific questions related to how or why they chose your company for the award.
Although technology has made our businesses much more manageable, it has also given rise to an endless list of online scams. Even if you’re well-versed about the current threats, new ones emerge daily, making it impossible to stay on top of all the latest schemes. Therefore, businesses—small and big, must learn how to stay safe and invest in proper antivirus software to secure company data. Although you may still get scammed, security measures will undoubtedly boost your chances of avoiding any major catastrophe.