Running a successful business is tough enough without throwing fraud into the mix. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), U.S. businesses will lose an average of five percent of their gross revenues to fraud. And while fraud is a problem for all businesses, small businesses are the most susceptible. Statistics show that small businesses lack the proper tools or training to prevent fraud from occurring in their businesses.
“While we often think that consumers are the only targets of scam artists”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “Businesses are prime targets of scammers, as they often have easy access to funds and scam artists may use the different levels of communication within a business to cause confusion.”
BBB provides the following overview of common scams which target small businesses:
Business Email Compromise (BEC). Business email compromise fraud is an email phishing scam which typically targets those who pay the bills for a business or organization. It has resulted in more losses than any other type of fraud in the U.S., according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
In BEC fraud, the scammer poses as a vendor or other trusted source who sends an email to an accountant or chief financial officer. The email asks them to wire money, buy gift cards or send personal information, often for a plausible reason. If money is sent, it goes into an account controlled by the con artist.
Phony invoices. Businesses receive fake invoices for products or services never ordered or received. The most common scams involve office supplies, website or domain hosting services, and directory listings. Generally, the amount is small enough to not initially raise a red flag.
Phishing scams. Phishing scams attempt to steal sensitive information about your business. Often appearing to be legitimate emails or text messages, clicking on the link downloads a virus which captures personal information or account or credit card details. Be leery of unsolicited messages and don’t click on links. Instead, hover over the link with your cursor to see the real address. Also, be sure your computer has the proper firewall and computer protection software.
Coupon books and sports team sponsorships. Small business operators are often approached to participate in coupon book or sports team sponsorship promotions which are never produced. Make sure the sponsorship is being promoted by an organization you know and trust and that the terms and conditions are clearly spelled out.
Vanity award scams. This scheme capitalizes on a company’s excitement for an award which essentially holds no value. The scammer congratulates the owner on their selection for the award and invites them to pay fees in order to be listed or receive a copy of their award which in actuality gives them little or no additional credibility or exposure but may cost them hundreds of dollars.
Overpayment scams. A “customer” sends a check for more than the amount they owe you, then instructs you to send the balance back. The check eventually bounces, and you could be responsible for the full amount, including what you wired to the scammer.
BBB offers these tips to help small businesses protect themselves:
Be careful what information you share. Do not give out information about your business unless you know what the information will be used for. Never provide personal information or financial details to anyone you don’t know.
Protect your devices. Make sure you have proper computer protection software and a firewall. Don’t click on links inside unsolicited e-mails. Consider adding a cyber insurance policy to your portfolio.
Educate your employees. Make sure your team is educated on protocols connected to billing, collections, and personnel information. Also make sure they can recognize various business scams as well as signs of internal fraud.
BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. BBB Serving Central East Texas was founded in 1985 and serves 19 counties.