Unmasking Fraudsters: A Guide On Recognizing Business Scams And Improving Cybersecurity

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Scams run rampant in the digital world, from phony emails with payment requests to unsolicited messages that promise high investment returns.

And they get more sophisticated every year, making them harder to detect.

Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are particularly vulnerable to these threats.

But with a few simple steps, SMEs can protect themselves from falling prey to fraud and cybersecurity breaches.

Read on to find out how to recognize scams and learn the steps you can take to protect your business. Here’s a preview:

What Strategies Do Scammers Frequently Use?

Scammers all have something in common: they want to get something from you.

Whether it’s personal information or money, they use a variety of strategies to try to get what they want.

To do this, they use a few primary strategies.

  • Scammers use fear. The natural fear of missing out on a great opportunity or being cheated can be exploited by scammers who create urgency and encourage you to act quickly. Sometimes, they pressure unsuspecting small and medium owners to follow shady procedures and divert financial assets to unreliable platforms.
  • Scammers use pressure. They coerce and force business owners to fulfill specific tasks immediately so they won’t have time to assess their actions.
  • Scammers use deceptive and untraceable payment options. They may require small and medium business owners to pay them through wire transfers, reloadable cards, or even gift cards which are very difficult to track.
  • Scammers pretend that you can trust them. They will pose as someone influential or connected to your business. On some occasions, they will present themselves as government officials.

Plenty of these bad actors have taken their skills online and infiltrated cyber security measures to terrorize small- and medium-sized enterprises.

What Are The Most Common Types Of Online Fraud Affecting SMEs?

The most common types of frauds threatening the cybersecurity of SMEs are ransomware and social engineering, especially phishing.

  • Ransomware scams are when the perpetrator attempts to extort money by holding your data.
  • Social engineering scams happen when someone manipulates someone into revealing confidential information or transferring money. There are many social engineering schemes out there. Here are just a few of them:
    • Baiting. The bad actors involved will have to entice you with an irresistible offer or a free trial through email. This offer will contain malicious software that can steal your data. They can also do this by simply infiltrating your system with a malware-infected flash drive.
    • Scareware. This is when the bad actors try to scare people into following their instructions by posting fake messages that appear to come from a legitimate company.
    • Phishing. These types of scams are the most common type of social engineering scams. They involve emails, phone calls, text messages, or websites that appear to be from a legitimate person or institution.

This list shows that cybercriminals have become more advanced in their methods and savvier in using the latest technology to evade security measures.

But there are some warning signs that can help you identify these cyber attacks!

What Are The Typical Online Phishing Schemes?

Plenty of phishing scams target small and medium businesses. Recognizing these scams early on is the best defense against them!

Tech Support Scam

In this type of scam, a con artist pretending to be a tech support specialist from the business’ trusted IT provider might make a call or email out of the blue.

These scammers will likely fake an incident to the company’s cybersecurity measures or imply that the business’s quarterly security maintenance was disrupted.

They’ll then request personal or company data to fix the tech problem. In reality, they’ll use the data for nefarious purposes.

These fraudsters might also imply that your account from a particular platform has been banned for violating specific rules. They’ll then pressure you to meet their conditions. Otherwise, you’ll be locked out of your account for life.

Here are a few examples:

Small and medium businesses should refrain from entertaining this call or email. Genuine tech support would never reach you immediately, so it’s best to be on your guard.

Advertising Scam

Scammers who use this type of fraud often reach out to businesses through email or calls.
They’ll want sensitive information in exchange for a free listing or to fulfill an ad spot the company never bought.

As always, business owners and their employees should ignore these people and immediately report them to the proper authorities when they get one.

Coaching Scams

There are a lot of legitimate business coaches out there, but some con artists simply do a better job at selling themselves!

These scammers sell fake coaching programs and promotional opportunities at prices too good to be true. They accompany this with bogus testimonials, telemarketing, and market research reports.

If the coaching prices are too low, always think twice before giving your money and data!

Government Agency Imposters

In this type of scam, a phony government official will usually threaten entrepreneurs with a suspension order, loss of their patent rights, or on some occasions, they even offer bogus business grants.

These fake officials use pressure tactics to coerce budding entrepreneurs to surrender payment details and company data.

Here’s an example:

This particular scheme banks on fear and urgency. If you ever get a call or email like this, do your due diligence first. Verify the alleged government agency’s credentials with relevant authorities.

Improving Online Rating Scam

Some scammers might offer business owners a chance to improve their online reputation through fake positive reviews.

They’ll promise to provide a set of fresh, glowing reviews that can be used to fool consumers and draw in more customers. But remember: Google and other search engines frown upon artificial reviews.

It pays to stay away from these people as they can only damage your business’s online profile.

Being scammed is never a good experience. So entrepreneurs should know how to recognize these scams and educate their staff about them too!

How Do Scammers Swindle People?

Scammers are always coming up with new schemes and techniques to trick money, but here’s how they usually do it:

Phone Calls

These fraudsters use phone numbers that unsuspicious business owners need to recognize.

Pro Tip To Reduce Unrequested Calls:

  • Register your numbers through the National DNCL or call 1-866-580-DNCL (3625).
  • Always screen your calls or hang up.
  • Check the call management feature of your phone service provider. Block numbers that you suspect are fraud or scammers.
  • Never provide unsolicited callers access to your personal information or your computer.

Prepaid Cards, Cryptocurrency, E-Transfer Payment Options

These scams usually pressure business owners to pay on shady payment options. Con artists typically conduct this through email or phone!

Pro Tip On How To Deal With Unwanted Payment Requests:

  • Be extremely cautious when dealing with unknown parties who request payment via prepaid cards, cryptocurrency, and e-transfer.
  • Only use legitimate websites, such as PayPal, for online payments.
  • Always ask for a proper invoice and check the legitimacy of the business before any transaction.

Email

These scams might be the most popular in this digital age. Common email scams involve phishing or identity theft.

Pro Tip On How To Avoid Getting Scammed Through Email:

  • Check the sender’s address. Most scammers often use misspelled names or a wrong domain!
  • Avoid clicking on suspicious links or attachments.
  • Be wary of emails asking for your details or banking information.
  • Use two-step authentication to protect your email account from unauthorized access.

What Is The Two-Step Authentication Process?

Two-Step Authentication: An Extra Layer Of Protection For Businesses 

The two-step authentication process provides additional cyber security to your business, making it more difficult for cybercriminals to access confidential information.

This security measure requires users to enter two pieces of information from different sources to access a system.

There are several two-step authentication methods, such as:

  • SMS Verification. This method sends an SMS code to your phone for authorization.
  • Biometric Verification. Facial recognition or fingerprint scanning is used as an authentication tool.
  • Push Notifications. You’ll receive a notification from your authentication app or a website for the user to approve or deny access.
  • Voice-based Notifications. This is similar to push notification but is done through automation. A voice from your device might ask for your name or a specific phrase.
  • Hardware Tokens. In this method, a physical device is used to generate codes that are entered as authentication.

A typical two-step authentication process in three steps:

  1. The user enters their username and password to access the system.
  2. They receive a unique code or challenge question from a different device that they must answer correctly.
  3. The user can access the system if they answer correctly for both steps.

To ensure that you and your employees can benefit from this measure efficiently and smoothly, it is also essential to use cybersecurity products and services that are reliable and up-to-date. A few popular ones include:

  • Duo Mobile
  • Google Authenticator
  • Microsoft’s Azure AD Protection

Two-Step Authentication And Multi-Factor Authentication: What’s The Difference?

Sometimes, a push notification isn’t enough to secure your data and accounts. That’s why knowing the distinction between two-step and multi-factor authentication (MFA) is important.

2FA

Two-Factor authentication provides an additional layer of security when logging into your account, requiring both a username and password and a second form of authentication such as a SMS message

MFA

Multi-Factor Authentication further strengthens access control by adding another factor such as biometric or contextual verification to ensure that the user is who they claim to be before granting them access.

How Can SMEs Report Scammers?

In Canada, there are several organizations that can help small and medium businesses report scams. Here’s how business owners can contact them:

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

Whether a small business owner or an individual, you can always trust the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center to counter scammers.

Report Deceptive Promotional Practices To The Competition Bureau

The Competition Bureau is a law enforcement agency that implements the Competition Act, the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, the Textile Labelling Act, and the Precious Metals Marking Act. The agency, however, doesn’t provide legal advice and settle disputes.

Contact Health Canada For Phony Drugs and Medicines

Small resellers or distributors conned by bogus medicines should file a complaint here.

Small And Medium Business Owners Should Always Be Vigilant

Protecting your business from fraudsters is a continuous process that involves recognizing the scams and taking proactive steps to safeguard your interests.

Following the tips outlined here, you’ll be better equipped to protect your business from scammers and malicious actors.

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Here at Beanstalk Growth Marketing, we not only put a premium on our advertising and marketing campaigns. We also value our clients’ cybersecurity and take extra steps to safeguard your business data.

Our process lets you enjoy a secure and smooth experience that enables you to grow your ideas and achieve your business goals. Give us a call anytime to learn more about our business solutions!

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