Since the beginning of COVID-19, phishing and other scams have increased and small businesses are not immune. In fact, many small businesses are the target of fraud because they’re more likely to trust scammers and may not have the proper protections in place.
How Will You Know If It’s a Scam?
Scammers pretend to be someone you trust and make themselves as believable as possible. They create a sense of urgency and try to rush you into deciding about something before you’re ready to do so. Scammers also use fear and even intimidation to get you to send money quickly. And most importantly, they typically ask you to pay using an untraceable payment method, such as wire transfers, reloadable cards or gift cards.
Top Small Business Scams to Avoid
- Phony invoices. Scammers will give you a fake invoice for products or services your company uses, such as office supplies or domain name registration. They hope you’ll pay the invoice and ask questions later (after they’re gone).
- Unordered supplies. Scammers call to confirm an existing order (that you never made), verify your address and even offer a free catalog or sample. If you agree, unordered merchandise arrives at your door, followed by demands to pay for it. Remember, if you receive merchandise you didn’t order, you have a legal right to keep it for free.
- Directory listing and advertising. Scammers pretend to be from the Yellow Pages or some other well-known directory or advertising service and offer you a free listing. All you need to do is provide your financial details to get the process going. You then receive a hefty bill and the scammer may use your call or even a recording of your call to pressure you into paying.
- Government agency imposter. Scammers impersonate a government agent (including the U.S. Department of Labor), threatening to suspend your business license, impose fines, or take legal action if you don’t immediately pay taxes, renew your business license or registration, or other fees. Additionally, a scammer may call or write a letter stating to be from the U.S. Patent and Trademarks stating you’ll lose your trademark if you don’t immediately pay your registration fee.
- Phishing, social engineering and ransomware. Scammers send an email or social media message that appears to be from a familiar source asking you to update a password or provide access to sensitive company information. If you or an employee click on the link provided, malware or other harmful files are used to gather personal financial information. Additionally, scammers may also use malware to take your files “hostage” and hold them for ransom.
How Can You Protect Your Business?
Follow these tips to protect your business from scammers and other fraud:
- Train your employees. Your best defense is knowledge. Explain your concerns about scams to your staff. Share what to look for and provide easy ways to report anything they experience to you or another coworker. Additionally, make it a policy not to send passwords or sensitive information by email, so if employees are asked for this information, they’ll know it’s not a legitimate request.
- Review invoices and payments closely. Never pay a bill unless it matches what you ordered and the items were delivered as promised—and tell your staff to do the same. Make all procedures for approving and paying invoices clear and limit the number of employees allowed to perform these functions.
- Pay attention to payment methods. If you’re asked to pay for something with a wire transfer, a reloadable debit card, or a gift card, it’s likely a scam.
- Keep your personal and financial information secure. Password-protect sensitive files and keep any paper files in a locked file cabinet. And control access to this information so only you and a few employees can use it.
- Don’t provide sensitive information via email. Typically, legitimate companies won’t ask you to provide sensitive information via email or over the phone. For example, Pinnacle Bank will never ask you to update your account or other personal information via email. Additionally, don’t click on links or attachments provided in an email, especially if you didn’t request the interaction.
- Be careful with social media. Scammers can hack into social media accounts and send messages that appear to be from people you trust. Don’t open any attachments or download files from something unexpected.
- Do business with legitimate companies. Before you do business with any new company, search their name online with the term “scam” or “complaint.” Use your best judgment based on what you find.
What Should You Do If You Spot a Scam?
Above all else, if you spot a scam or if you’ve been a victim, report it to FTC.gov/Complaint. Your report can help stop the scam. Additionally, it would be best if you alerted your state Attorney General.
Important: If you believe you’ve been a victim of fraud or you notice an unauthorized transaction in your Pinnacle Bank account, please notify us immediately at 877-759-7939.