May 05 2017

April Fool’s Day All Year Round

Of course, we’re talking about scams.

Scammers, Impostors, Impersonators can be said to represent creativity gone wrong. From in-person, to snail mail, to telephone, email, and Facebook… and they will follow you until the ends of the Earth. It’s safe to say, since the Digital Revolution, scams have become much more prominent and, as a small business, you have a lot more to lose than they have to gain.

Take a quick look at this list of situations and advice on how to avoid them:

False invoicing: Most businesses have fallen prey to this type of scam and, no matter how small the amount is, that’s money out of your pocket. Scammers will produce fake invoices, whether from a made-up vendor or a real vendor that you work with – and they all look REAL.

Solution: promote transparency and encourage Accounts Payable to follow up on any new vendors and, especially, on unexpected bills from vendors you currently work with. Develop a procedure whereby Accounts Payable double checks any invoice that seems out of place. Similarly, develop a procedure for reporting scams that managed to go unnoticed.

False service: Someone calls you from So-and-So Company that’s up-and-coming in the Business to Business (B2B) sphere. Whether it is to list you in their directory, generate leads, or any other service that would benefit your business, scammers will do this for a small fee. Certainly, these situations are identical to the REAL business development strategies; B2Bs rely on the same communication mediums (telephone, email) to get new business. So, how can you tell which are fake?

Solution: Don’t rush into a decision. Although commitment on the 1st call is SO important for the caller, safety comes first. Take a few moments and investigate the company that is calling you on Google, Canada Revenue Agency database, or through whatever connection the caller says they found you. Note: Be sure to type in the address of the website in your web browser rather than clicking links in an email they send you; this is a best practice for any email coming from an unknown sender.

False tech support: There are entire operations out there pretending to be us and being quite successful at it. It’s actually quite easy to gain the trust of someone when you use the premise of helping them. “Your computer has been infected with a virus, and we, the Microsoft team, are here to help. Let me remote into your computer.”

Solution: Keep in touch with your REAL IT company. Instead of trying to fix it yourself, call us anytime you’re prompted that something is going wrong in your computer. We are well-prepared to investigate and advise. Getting to know us better and familiarizing yourself with our voices and our support process is key in spotting an impersonator. We do the same with you, since, certainly, the scam can go the other way.

Dishonest or Disgruntled employee: This is a sensitive topic. Neither employee nor employer wants to work in an atmosphere of distrust. But there is always a possibility of compromised sensitive information. A dishonest employee wants more money, a disgruntled employee wants revenge; in this situation, using company passwords to harm your business is not even hacking since they were willfully given access to your network, but it’s still theft.

Solution: Create processes as a fail-safe to internal scams. Impose complex passwords and change passwords often, keep a record of your passwords in a password protected spreadsheet on the server, not on your local desktop. Most importantly: tighten permissions. Controlling and keeping track of access is not only a best practice, but a necessary practice.

Believing that your business is safe from fraud is not good enough anymore; scams happen when you are not paying attention; it does not speak to skill and competence. Create best practices as a fail-safe to unpredictable situations and make your team aware of potential scams encouraging them to ask questions when unsure.

Contact us with comments or concerns about this article or the information provided.

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