In this fast-paced digital age, we must guard ourselves and our businesses from the threat of cyber fraud and online scammers. Phishing emails have become a common occurrence over recent years. Receiving a notification from a reputable source can scare us into handing over our passwords and credit card details. I’ve seen it happen time and again to intelligent and professional men and women.
What risks do we face as business owners? Here are just a few examples for you:
Telephone fraud: it’s easy to get caught out by well-meaning support agency staff from companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Virgin Media, or BT. Again, we are duped into believing the call is genuine as it’s a company we know and respect. Instead, we find ourselves engaging in a tech support scam.
Business directory fraud: ensuring that our business is visible to our customers is a large part of our marketing journey. However, some groups take advantage of this need to be seen by offering free advertising only to bill you then later. Without a prior agreement they can charge extortionate rates.
Payroll scams: it’s a terrifying thought that scammers can reach your hard-earned wage, but it is happening. These fraudsters hack into HR/Payroll departments pretending to be you and ask to change bank account details. With a small amount of online searching (through social media and email accounts) they can quickly discover your birth date, place of work, and other vital information.
User agreements: PayPal is an excellent example of how criminals use a phishing email to inform customers of an update to a user agreement. It’s a way of tricking you into giving up your personal and business details.
How can we remain vigilant in the face of determined hackers with the single aim of scamming our businesses? Here are some suggestions:
1. It’s worth taking cyber security awareness training for you and your team. This process allows you to spot fraudulent attempts and work together to secure the safety of your online communications. Such training can help you put a reliable method in place that will automatically flag up anything unusual.
2. For smaller businesses, a simple procedure where each staff member makes a phone call to a manager to confirm and authorise an email or action can reduce the risk.
3. Turn to social media. Hashtags such as #CyberProtect will bring up a news feed full of recent scams and how businesses and the police have uncovered them and dealt with them.
4. Be ready to challenge any phone calls, emails, or invoices.
5. Do your research. A quick Google search can often throw up something to highlight external communication as fraudulent. Never click on a link you don’t trust.
6. The UK government runs an effective campaign called @TakeFive. They advise you to stop and think before you act and take a few minutes to consider what’s happening.
If you have any concerns about business scams, feel free to get in touch and we would be happy to talk it over with you.