While many consumers are much more careful than they were ten years ago, when so much instant access to technology was still new, hackers and cybercriminals are becoming more creative and finding new ways to dupe the average computer user. For the small business, one miscreant can unleash chaos on day-to-day operations, taking down websites, hacking into customer databases and even taking down an entire network. Below are the top technology-based scams of 2011 to help small businesses be aware, alert, and vigilant.
Phishing Scams–Phishing is more prevalent than ever and your employees should be aware of the latest round of ways criminals are getting your personal data. With phishing, a realistic-looking e-mail comes through asking you to verify your password. This e-mail links you to a page that looks like the real thing, but is actually a completely different website. 2011’s phishing scams came in the form of secret shopper applications and job offers where your employee might even interview for a job via telephone but be asked to fill out a credit report before they can make an official offer. There is no job — it’s a tricky way to steal your identity.
Debit Card Readers–This has become a serious threat at retail locations nationwide. A fake debit reader is installed in your business and customers unknowingly provide their information to criminals through it. One of the most famous cases happened last year at Michael’s stores nationwide, when debit card readers were compromised in more than 80 locations.
Western Union Scam–The business version of this popular scam is that a customer calls wanting to use a credit card to pay for an item, but add on a little extra for miscellaneous services, asking the business to refund the difference via a Western Union money order. Avoid any customer who requests to add extra on to a credit card or personal check and have you refund the difference via Western Union.
Better Business Bureau attack–This begins when you are sent an e-mail notifying you that a complaint has been filed against your company. When you click or open the attachment, a virus is loaded on your computer. If an e-mail tries to send you to a website, the best bet is to go to that website directly and login. Never click an e-mail link unless you are sure of where it is taking you.
Government Grants–The government has money for you. All you have to do is send Grant Connect your credit card information and you’ll be on your way to reaping the benefits of these grants. The Federal Trade Commission won a settlement against Grant Connect and a court order bans them from selling products and services, but let this be a warning to small businesses and their employees. Investigate a company fully before handing your credit card and personal information over.
Unauthorized Telephone Bill Charges–This happens when a consumer signs up for a “free offer,” only to later find a hidden charge on their phone bill. This can affect your business’s bottom line if these charges are showing up on your company’s phone bills. These practices are called cramming and the FTC is trying to crack down on it.