According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) the number of businesses in this country that fell prey to scams increased by 53% from 2017 to 2018. The estimated loss by scammed businesses in 2018 is around $7.2million, with many small to medium sized businesses being forced to close down as a result. The scams range in sophistication from simple trickery to high tech hacking, with email fraud being one of the preferred methods. Overwhelmingly it is small businesses and self-employed people who are targeted by these scammers; they simply do not have the resources to attain the level of security protection adopted by large organisations. Lack of security protocol and the nature of shared authority often found in small businesses means there are many vulnerabilities, and that’s what scammers exploit. But you don’t need to build a tech fortress to be safe. There are some practical steps you can take to minimise risk and loss.

Ensure that employees create strong, unique passwords and that these are never shared. Make sure that all computers and business software are password protected.

Use strong junk mail filters in your email software. Never click on a link or open an attachment unless you are absolutely sure it has come from a trustworthy source. Scammers will impersonate financial institutions, government departments, charities, or other businesses. Look for clues such as bad grammar, faulty logo design, non-personalised salutation (e.g “Dear customer” instead of using your name), or differences between this email and others you may have received from the same sender. Check the email address. If you only see their username you should be able to hover your cursor over it (don’t click) and the email address will be displayed. Compare it with the legitimate email address of the company they claim to be sending from.

Never share personal information via email or phone unless you’ve fully vetted the recipient. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, make phone calls or do an online search to verify someone’s identity. Your business may be at stake.

To report a scam, learn about known scams, or find out more ways to protect yourself, visit https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/

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