Every year, small businesses fall victim to scams and cyber crimes that can cause significant financial, legal and reputational damage.
Scammers are becoming smarter and are going to great lengths to convince you that their offer is legitimate or genuine.
It is important that you are aware of common scams and take action to protect yourself and your business.
These days, scams come in various different forms. Thanks to advanced technology and communication methods, scammers have access to many tools to get what they want.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) produces The Little Black Book of Scams to help you identify and avoid the 10 most common methods scammers use to trick you.
For small businesses, these can include false billing scams, where scammers issue fake bills for unwanted products or services, or business directory billing scams, where you receive a bill for a listing in a supposedly well-known directory.
Protect your business
Scammers often target small businesses as they are busy and have fewer resources than larger businesses.
As a small business operator, there are a few rules you can adopt to ensure you don’t get caught out by a scam:
1. Ignore suspicious emails, letters, house visits, phone calls or SMS messages.
2. Don’t agree to deals or offers without doing your research.
3. Never provide your business’ banking and financial details to someone you don’t know and trust.
4. Have a process in place for verifying and paying accounts and invoices.
5. Keep the network, computers and mobile devices you use for your business secure by updating your security software, changing passwords and backing up data regularly.
How do I find out about scams?
To stay one step ahead of scammers, you can sign up to the ACCC’s SCAMwatch website to receive free email alerts on new scams targeting small businesses.
Stay Smart Online also offers an alert service for Australian internet users to explain recent online threats and how they can be managed.
Report a scam
If you think you have spotted a scam or have been scammed, you can report it via the SCAMwatch online form available at www.scamwatch.gov.au.
Mark Brennan is the Australian small business commissioner.