There’s no disputing that small businesses and non-profit organizations put a lot of effort into keeping their businesses afloat. But it has been shown that businesses with under 100 employees are more likely than larger ones to fall victim to fraud, losing approximately $155,000 annually. So, if scammers were to target your business, what would you do to protect your reputation and your bottom line? How do you ensure that your business remains secure against scams? Let’s discuss some of the steps you can take.
1. Safeguard your bank accounts and credit cards
Financial fraud is no doubt the number one concern for employee-based firms and sole proprietors alike. It is imperative that business credit cards and banking be totally separate from your personal accounts. That way, if scammers were to be successful in gaining access to your business account, there’s no way they could also access your personal account or vice versa. Quite apart from fraud, separating your accounts simplifies the tracking of your business expenses.
It is also equally important to be wise about your card use. Never give anyone access to your card or its information unless it’s a familiar company with which you conduct business transactions. Make full use of online banking for your bill payment, and where not possible, ensure paper bills are handled and stored securely. Be sure to monitor your accounts daily so that any suspicious activity can be picked up early enough to take quick action.
2. Use antivirus software in conjunction with a firewall
It would be wise for every business owner to invest in malware detection software, and regularly back up their information, because backups make it a lot easier to bounce back after a cyberattack. Malware detection software helps to protect the privacy and security of file systems, while a firewall helps block out external threats and attackers from your system from the beginning.
Threats undiscovered by the malware detection software can easily travel from computer to computer unbeknownst to the user, wreaking havoc on your system. These undetected threats enter computers quietly — they travel through the internet to find one with unpatched vulnerabilities or lower security settings and then plant themselves.
A firewall, once in place, has the ability to monitor all network traffic and identify and block what’s unwanted. Because most, if not all, computers nowadays are connected to the internet, there are countless opportunities for attackers to pounce, taking full control of vulnerable ones. These attackers often aim to steal personal information in an attempt to commit financial fraud.
3. Verify all invoices and payments
Ensure that you have clear procedures in place for approving expenditures or invoices, and at no time should it be possible for a major payout to result from an unexpected email, call, or invoice. Limit the number of people authorized to make purchases and payments. Pay close attention to your invoices — never pay except if you are sure that they are for items that were really requested and delivered. If someone requests that payments be made via gift card, wire transfer, or reloadable card, it is most likely a scam. Be vigilant.
4. Dedicate one computer to banking
Forbes magazine made this recommendation. It is suggested that avoiding mobile banking and using a computer dedicated to financial transactions significantly reduces the risk of attacks. When no other online activities, like internet surfing, email, or social media, are conducted on this machine, its vulnerabilities are a lot lower.
5. Institute password policy
While no password is 100% effective at stopping hackers, putting a password policy in place and ensuring that everyone knows it and follows it to a T will most definitely go a long way. It must enforce two-factor authentication. That way, if anyone guesses your password, they won’t be successful at accessing your account because they would be unable to enter the next authentication level. Ensure that passwords are complex and changed every 60 to 90 days — at least eight characters containing one number, an uppercase letter, and a symbol — different for each account.
6. Keep your software up to date
Regularly updating your software ensures that any security breaches or bugs are fixed, eliminating your risk of compromise; putting them off makes you an easier target. Be sure to enable automatic updates on all devices. Not only do they provide security updates, but they also offer other new features that enhance the end-user experience.
7. Educate your staff
While it is true that employees may be your biggest point of vulnerability to cyberattacks, it is also true that they are your first line of defense. Therefore, performing regular training sessions on the basics of security threats and prevention measures is imperative. The training must be enforced by establishing policies that provide guidance on the appropriate use and management of confidential company information.
One such policy must address the verification of identities of people with whom they interact and the various avenues through which this is done. To conduct digital ID checks, an employee can leverage online ID verification platforms or trusted people search sites just to name a few. Sometimes even a simple Google search and looking at a person’s digital footprint or using a reverse phone lookup may be helpful.
8. Perform due diligence on new hires
Corrupt employees can prove disastrous for your business. Their fraudulent actions may result in a number of negative consequences: loss of clients, damage to your reputation, a decline in sales and profits, poor service or product quality, strained relationships with partners, and more. To ensure that you make the best hiring decision, you need to conduct basic background checks on prospective hires, particularly those who will have access to your cash, valuables, and sensitive information.
Small businesses are regularly targeted by scammers. It is therefore imperative that you never overlook anything that can make you vulnerable to scams, as it can be a devastating blow to your bottom line, and let’s not forget your reputation. The key to protecting your business from scams is educating yourself and your employees as well as implementing various safeguards companywide. There is no 100% effective security measure, but with a combination of all of those discussed here, you stand a better fighting chance against scams.