Identity theft is a pervasive and growing problem nationwide, and as scammers become more enterprising in their attempts to find more victims, a large and growing number are using their same methods on small businesses.
Because more crooks are specifically targeting small businesses with their well-known scams, it’s important for owners and employees alike to become more vigilant in dealing with any unsolicited calls, letters or emails, according to a report from Milwaukee television station TMJ4. One of the most common such potential crimes that can take place is when fraudsters send phony invoices to businesses.
Often, small businesses may receive large amounts of invoices every month and it’s easy enough for one or two to get lost in the shuffle, which is what the criminals are counting on, the report said. Usually, these invoices look official, and list office supplies, work on a website or other services another company might provide a small business, with the obvious difference being that no such transaction ever took place. As a consequence, those who are in charge of approving incoming invoices should try to redouble their efforts to ensure that all prices and data listed on them is completely accurate before sending off a payment for whatever is listed on it. Even one such incident can cost a small business dearly, and since so many operate on thin profit margins to begin with, any such slip-up is likely to be extremely problematic.
Some scams happen primarily online
Another way in which criminals may try to rip off small businesses, which might end up being even more troubling, is when they use phishing scams to try to obtain sensitive financial information about a company, or its employees, the report said. These messages, which are usually received via email or by telephone, usually involve a criminal claiming to be someone he or she is not, such as a government or bank worker, and attempting “verify” data related to financial accounts such as credit cards. Of course, any such verification attempts are bogus, as no legitimate organization, business or agency would ever contact anyone unsolicited and ask them to provide such sensitive data. Those who receive such calls or messages are best advised to simply ignore them.
One final scam that may befall workers at small companies – but which typically don’t target them specifically – relates to viruses and other malware that are routinely emailed around, and can mine computers or entire networks for sensitive payment and employee data, the report said. This can be particularly troubling for small companies that protect large amounts of client or customer information, because exposing those details can cost not only the victims to identity theft and other scams, but also significantly increase the businesses’ liability when it comes to remediating the data breach. These costs alone can stretch into the millions of dollars, and that would obviously be difficult for any small company to bear. Consequently, it might be important for small business owners to impress upon their workers the importance of making sure they recognize any files they download onto their computers before doing so.
Data breaches and other such incidents being so costly for businesses, which may increase the value of tech insurance, which can help to protect them from these costs. And with this type of exposure becoming far more common in the last few years, it might be wise to investigate whether the costs of such coverage will be more bearable.