Don’t Get Duped: Online Scams That Target Small Businesses
In the early days of your Limited Liability Company (LLC) (or other type of small business), you’re often still learning as you go, deciding what processes you need to put in place and how to optimize your operation going forward. Because so many small business owners are new entrepreneurs just getting familiar with what it takes to run a successful company, this unfortunately makes them a prime target for online scams. When your business is so fresh, you are likely overwhelmed, stressed and potentially less likely to be as discerning as you should be.
This is a fact that con artists, cyberattackers and other malicious individuals are all too ready to exploit. Especially if you’re new to the world of small business, it’s critical that you educate yourself about the threats out there and take action to safeguard your operation from those wishing to cause you harm. Today we’re taking a closer look at the kind of internet scams you need to beware of and giving you a bit of guidance on how you can minimize your chances of falling victim to such an incident.
Types of Online Scams
As you might imagine, you’ll find a wide variety of internet scams out there. But here is a quick rundown of some of the most popular ones circulating that hope to make a mark out of small business owners like you.
- Business Coaches: When you are still assembling your business, it’s tempting to reach out an expert for motivation, guidance and advice. But be careful who you select — many charge insane fees and/or resort to pushy sales tactics to win your business.
- False Invoices: Once you get in the swing of running your business, you’ll likely discover how easy it is to fall into complacency when it comes to paying invoices. This scam relies on you being too busy to notice a fake invoice submitted for payment, so make sure to pay close attention to outgoing funds.
- Malware: The classic online scam, malware is so pervasive that it’s often a tool used in some of the other scams on our list. By clicking on the wrong image or downloading a file under false pretenses, you may be inviting malware into your system.
- Multilevel Marketing Schemes: If you’ve ever been on the job market or owned a business, you have almost certainly seen these so-called “pyramid schemes.” They usually involve a promise of big money eventually, but only once you invest upfront.
- Mystery Shopping: Some companies do assess the quality of a company’s operation by sending in “mystery shoppers” to document their experience and fill out detailed reports. Still, many other scammers will actually charge you to get started as a so-called “mystery shopper” while masquerading as the real deal.
- Overpayment: Have you ever received a mysterious message online saying that you’ve overpaid some debt and offering you the chance to claim your money? These scams often involve check deposits, so again — keep a close eye on those outgoing funds.
- Phishing and Smishing: This one has been around as long as the internet itself. Using fake email (phishing) or text messages (smishing), scammers will target your sensitive data, putting you potentially at the center of identity theft or a virus.
- Search Engine Optimization Scams: SEO is very much a legitimate tool you can use to boost your search engine rankings. Unfortunately, many “professionals” will use the guise of SEO to wring some money out of you without ever delivering much in return.
- Vanity Scams: We all want to feel special and acknowledged as such. However, don’t let your need for recognition make you easy prey for a vanity scam, which typically offers you the chance to claim some award or special designation — as long as you pay up first.
- Work-From-Home Jobs: Although remote work is definitely on the rise, you might encounter many work-from-home jobs that are simply money-making schemes. As a business owner, you’ll get your fair share of these, so know when to steer clear.
How to Avoid Internet Scams
We’ve touched on some of the most common types of online scams, so let’s give you some guidance about what you can do to guard against them.
Educate Your Team
Your team is your greatest asset, so don’t try to take action against online scams alone. Empower your team to be a part of the solution. Offer training about common internet scams so your entire office knows what to look for if something suspicious crosses their path. Most likely, scams will be distributed to multiple team members at once — if you open the lines of communication on this issue, you can prevent a data breach from occurring.
Double-Check Your Payments
Even if you find yourself drowning in a cycle of payments going out and coming into your company, don’t take anything for granted. As we mentioned above, many online scams intend to slip through the cracks of the process unnoticed, believing that you may never even realize what happened. But keeping a close eye on your books can prevent anything sketchy from escaping notice. Make sure that every bill you receive corresponds to a deliverable, and teach your team to never cut corners in processing. It also helps to limit the number of staff who can authorize financial transactions.
Stay in the Know
This guide should only be the beginning of your deep dive into how cyberattackers will use technology to exploit your systems. Be aware of the actions they need you to take for their scams to prove successful. Perhaps you have to click on something, download a file or open an attachment. But you almost always need to be fooled by some aspect of a scam for it to work. Secure your data and educate yourself (and your team!) about what to do and how to sniff out a scam.
Do Your Homework
One smart way to react when you aren’t sure about a message you receive is to enter research mode. Before you do anything, search for the company’s name. The way these online scams thrive is by working en masse — if you take a deeper look into any of them, they tend to fall apart pretty easily. After all, the internet is full of conversations among people who have already been wronged.
With at least a cursory review of what kinds of online scams may be heading your way and how to deflect them, you’re already ahead of many of your competitors. Hopefully we’ve inspired you to be more vigilant about exactly what you may be facing. You put so much time and effort into your company, that it’s worth pushing yourself a bit more to keep your investment out of the hands of those who wish to exploit it. Get your business started right by guarding against these scams before it’s too late.
At Incfile, our goal is to prepare business owners like you for the challenges ahead, and offer help when you need it. With our extensive resources at your disposal, you’ll be ready for whatever storms the future may bring. We can help you start your company off strong, and then work with you to make sure you’re managing it effectively. To learn more, check out our website and get started today.