These days, many consumers are vulnerable to various kinds of scams or other attacks that could end up putting them in dire straits with regard to their credit, finances, and even personally identifying information. However, while many Americans are now on alert for those kinds of threats, many small business owners might not know that their companies are often in the same position.
In recent weeks, it seems that many small businesses across the state of Wisconsin have been targeted by criminals who pose as workers for local utility companies, according to a report from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Usually, these kinds of scams are most prevalent during the summer, when companies tend to rack up larger energy bills because of their reliance upon air conditioning, but they cropped up again in November and have continued unabated.
How they generally work is relatively simple, but insidious, the report said. The scammer typically calls or otherwise contacts a business and explains that a company’s energy costs have gone up appreciably in the last month and as such, their typical payment did not cover the costs they incurred as they ramped up their use. In this way, the scammers seem to have already bilked some unsuspecting small businesses out of thousands of dollars each. Individual businesses that have reported the incidents to Alliant Energy Corp. have been ripped off for between $1,200 and $2,000 each.
“Typically we see them in the summer when there’s more disconnecting going on, but this one just keeps going right through the winter and is just not stopping,” Annemarie Newman, a spokeswoman for Alliant, which is based in Madison, Wisc., told the newspaper. “What’s different, from what we’re seeing, is that businesses are paying out larger sums of money.”
How to spot the problem
When independent enterprises receive unexpected calls from people claiming to represent companies, even those with which they currently do business, it’s important to be wary of any attempts to cause workers or owners to turn over financial, personal, or professional information, the report said. As a general rule of thumb, reputable companies will not contact any customers or clients in this way and ask them to verify anything about their accounts or themselves. Such calls should be ignored, and then reported to both authorities and the companies the caller or emailer claims to represent.
Further, it seems that these scammers in particular are focusing on specific areas and even individual neighborhoods, and simply running down a list of all the small businesses there, the report said. Therefore, it might also be wise for owners to share such experiences with other entrepreneurs in their areas so that they are not likewise affected by such criminal schemes.
Of course, independent companies are also targeted quite often for more high-tech schemes, such as hacking attacks, which can be carried out against them relatively quickly and easily because enterprises of that size tend not to have enough resources to properly shield themselves from such incidents. However, the fallout from such an attack can still have severe consequences for any company, with the price tag for remediation running into the tens of thousands of dollars or more. Fortunately, companies are able to insulate themselves from these potentially ruinous costs by investing in a form of small business insurance known as tech insurance. This will specifically help companies to cover the costs that result from a data breach, and potentially allow them to stay afloat when such an incident does unfortunately happen to them.