Online Scams That Target Small businesses: How to Detect and Avoid

Don’t let yourself become a victim of online scams


We all know how COVID-19 has caused massive disruptions to the global economy. The gigantic shift towards digitization, remote working trend, and operational difficulties has caused various hurdles for small businesses.

Unfortunately, online scammers are trying to make the most from this vulnerability. With each passing day, they are using new tactics to gain maximum information. In this battle, small businesses are the most common targets.

Why Cybercriminals Commonly Attack Small Businesses
Many business owners believe that well-established firms are the common targets. However, this is a misconception; big firms are the most challenging targets as they have strong security.

On the other hand, small businesses with budget constraints and weak security are the most vulnerable. Small businesses are the most frequent target of cybercriminals for the following reasons:

  • Lower budget for security
  • Lower chances of call rejections (as they assume that a call can be from a prospect)
  • Minimum training of employees about online security

Irrespective of these facts, small businesses can still take steps to reduce the chances of online attacks.


Familiarize Yourself with Common Small Business Scams
Although cybercriminals are becoming more creative, getting familiar with the common attacks is a smart way to avoid them. So, here is a list of the most common online scams for small businesses:

1. Remote Working Scam
Although this scam is not new, the mandatory social distancing guidelines have bought an upsurge in it. Online scammers make fake profiles and show up as locals. Here, their key target is to get a job from small businesses and take an upfront payment. Once they get the payment, they never return. You can even find the best reviews and five-star ratings on their profiles.

For instance, a company made an online contract with an HR agency. They took 50% advance payment for the first month. But when they got the payment, they never responded. Additionally, there can be other forms of online working scams like:

  • Craft assembling
  • Envelope stuffing
  • Multi-level marketing
  • Medical billing
  • Transcription work

Always verify an agency or freelancer before making a contract. You can check their online identity. Besides this, you should do online research with keywords like scam, fake, etc.

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2. Fake Invoice Scam
Small business owners assume that they are not operating at a high level. Therefore, no one will bother them with the fake bills. But, online scammers play with this belief. They send you fake invoices of the most common things, assuming that they will get the payment without verification.

For instance, they send you an invoice for office supplies. In some cases, they even send you some supplies that you have never asked for. In exchange for it, they email you an outrageous bill. For example, a Carpet Cleaning company may get an invoice for cleaning supplies, and they may pay it without verifying.

Moreover, scammers can also extort money from small businesses through recurring cost invoices scams. Here they send you an invoice for renewing online subscriptions, website domains, memberships, etc.

Though these invoices look highly convincing, they are not real. Therefore, you should double-check the information every time. Reading the company’s name is not enough. Scammers even hijack the email accounts and edit the content.

Furthermore, they can even change the bank account details and address. To stay safe, you should always make a phone call, compare the invoice with the initial invoice, and check details with your first contract. Be sure to check the contact details online before making a phone call.


3. Technical Support Scam
Have you ever seen a pop-up on your computer screen regarding technical support? Small business owners commonly get these pop-ups followed by a phone call about the discounted offer.

They further confuse you by hyping the risks of getting viruses. Moreover, they invite you to a program about technical security and ask for registration.

Since they charge less than genuine companies, small businesses with limited budgets usually fall for their trap. Their next step is to get all your personal information. Apart from it, they even ask for remote access to your computer. Once they get the access, they fill it with malware or ransomware.

Never share your confidential information with anyone. Especially if the emails and calls look pushy, it is a red flag. However, if you are in real need of technical support and giving remote access is mandatory, double-check the company and its credentials. Never take such support from newly established online companies.


4.  Phishing Scam
Phishing is another common strategy used by cybercriminals. These malicious attackers are well-aware that small business employees are not well-trained in cybersecurity. Therefore, they lure them with fake emails and links.

Once the employee downloads a file or clicks on the link, the computer is filled with a virus. Consequently, the scammer gets all the passwords, data, and financial information.

Train your employees to deal with suspicious emails. Also, send them information and reminders on how to identify red-flags. Give special attention to the front-line workers. Tell them not to click on new links until verified.

Besides this, ask them to keep strong and unique passwords or use password managers. Bitwarden, Dashlane, and NordPass are a few good options. Also, use multi-factor authentication and make the use of anti-virus mandatory.


5. IRS Scam
Scammers believe that impersonating higher authorities is the easiest method for compliance. They send you emails about license fees, late taxes, and penalties. Since small businesses never want to augment such penalties, they make the payment right away.

Never transfer any payment without checking the genuine website. If possible, visit the IRS office and make things clear. If you get to know that the email was a scam, report it right away.


Wrapping It Up
Unfortunately, every small business encounters online scammers at some stage. They might trick you with phony profiles, send you malicious links and invoices, or become a fake technical supporter.

You need to stay vigilant and do not become their victim. For this purpose, you can adopt multiple strategies like employee training, verification at every step, use of anti-virus, and online research.

Lastly, never forget to take prompt action. Whenever you suspect a scammer, report it right away. Your negligence can make others a big victim.


Author Bio:
Myrah Abrar is a computer science graduate with a passion for web development and digital marketing. She writes blog articles for Carpet Cleaning Eastbourne


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