Every year, new and inventive scams are designed by criminals to steal your data. For a long time, such scams were mainly aimed at individuals, but now the biggest targets for scams and fraud are small businesses. Because small businesses usually don’t have the infrastructure and policies in place to properly protect their physical and digital data, it makes them easy pickings for identity thieves and fraudsters who want to make a quick buck. So what are the biggest business scams of 2017, and how can you recognise them?
Owners of small businesses are well aware of the flood of calls you will get from online and physical directories, looking to get you listing your business in their directories and ‘boosting your sales’. But while these free directory services might sound great to a budget conscious start-up, many of them are actually scams, and can result in you spending a lot of money or having your data sold on.
Tech Support Scams
Tech support scams are also a very common problem, both for individuals and business owners. Criminals will pose as tech support personnel and request access to your computer systems to ‘fix an issue’. While this might sound ludicrous and obviously a scam, these people prey on the less digitally savvy. They threaten legal action if they don’t allow access to their computers, plant viruses to back up their fraudulent claims and repeatedly harass people they see as good marks. Make sure your employees never give control of their computer to anyone who calls from outside the company offering to fix something.
Government Imitation Scams
There have been a lot of these going around recently, and impersonating the government seems to have become all the rage. Scams are flooding the market from various ‘official government departments’ – from people impersonating the DVLA trying to make money through fake speeding fines, to aggressive campaigns against business owners threatening legal action due to complaints about their practices. These messages can be scary – and that’s the point. But remember, these departments will never contact you by email, never threaten you in this way (they have other agencies to do that) and will always be in touch via letters several times before a ‘final notice’ is issued.
These scams are a little bit rarer in the UK, but they are becoming more and more common. They started in the US, where criminals would send business owners something that looks like a bill, invoice, account statement or rebate cheque from something you have bought. The criminals will research and target your business to make this look genuine, and increase the likelihood of your cashing the cheque. Make sure you read everything – including the fine print – carefully. Companies that cash these cheques may unwittingly be agreeing to be billed monthly for products or services you don’t need and may not even receive. Once you’re in, getting out of these contracts can be a nightmare; and it can cost you a lot of money in the process.
Back in the cyber world, new ransomware strains have been hitting the business world hard. Whether the more traditional model of holding your files hostage, or the more modern version that threatens to publish all of your files to the internet. Unprotected small businesses are falling prey to ransomware at a fast rate this year, so make sure you systems are protected.
But the biggest thing to remember, even with those digital based scams, is that criminals are looking for all of your printed personal data. Whether that’s in the form of bank statements, purchase orders, invoices, client information sheets or even meeting notes written on a scrap of paper – it’s all gold for the dedicated criminal. So keep it safe, and partner up with a dedicated shredding company like us who can help you keep your business data safe for years to come. For more information, get in touch with our team today.