At even the best of times, it can be challenging to be a business owner. Unstable supply chains, unreliable employees and, yes, pandemics can throw a big wrench into things. The last thing you need is a scammer showing up and trying to take advantage.
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Unfortunately, scammers are everywhere. That’s why it’s so important for you to know how to identify them and stop them from affecting your bottom line.
Whether they come by phone, email or even in-person, you can stop scammers in their tracks by knowing the following:
We’ve all gotten them: calls or texts from phone numbers that look familiar. But, with no name coming up on the caller ID, it can be difficult to know for sure. It could be a client, or maybe it’s another company with which you do business. Perhaps it’s just a wrong number.
Or it could be a scammer. These days, scammers have the ability to spoof phone numbers. That way, they could be calling from across the country—or even from outside the US—but look like they’re calling locally.
What do phone scammers want? Money, or at least, information that can eventually lead them to money. This means they will try to get valuable personal or business information from you directly. Or they could somehow persuade you to give them access to your device or network, where they can get the information they want without further help from you.
If you are unsure, do not answer a call or click on a link in a text right away. Try and verify the legitimacy of the unknown phone number first. You can start with a general web search first. Or you can look it up with a reverse phone lookup, which can help to quickly reveal the person or business that’s actually behind the phone number.
It if turns out that the caller or texter is someone you know, that’s great. But if not, do not respond. If a search suggests that the number belongs to an illegitimate entity, report the number to the FCC. They can take it from there to investigate and put a stop to that particular scam.
Email has made it very convenient for scammers to broadcast offers for tempting things like low-interest business loans or, especially over the past year, small business relief programs. All you have to do is give them something like your banking information or tax ID.
You may get supposed communications from your bank, an important client, or the government. They may look totally legitimate on the surface. However, links in these emails could actually lead to spoofed websites designed to steal information about your business. Or they may load malware onto your computer and then make you pay to get it removed.
To avoid falling victim to these kinds of email phishing scams:
- Don’t click on anything or reply to a suspicious email.
- Without clicking, hover your cursor over links to see if they go to legitimate websites.
- Verify the legitimacy of the sender’s email.
- Note any incorrect spelling or grammar.
- Be skeptical of an overly urgent or threatening tone.
- If you’re still unsure, contact the supposed sender directly (by phone or even in person) to verify the email’s legitimacy.
The in-person scam, or door-to-door scam, is not as common as those by phone or email. But they do still happen. In-person scammers are born sales people, set out to dazzle and pressure you with fast, persuasive talk. They may play into your fears of bankruptcy, litigation, or even trick you into buying extra insurance, retaining legal counsel, or engaging the services of some compliance specialist.
Not only do you probably not need any of these things, such products and services are likely fake. How do you stop a fraudster like this before they talk you into doing something you’ll regret?
Just ask them for a business card and a day to think things over. Then, use that day to research the person and their supposed company to get all the facts. Just the act of pausing initially is usually enough to stop an in-person scammer; they know if they don’t get you right away, they probably won’t get you at all. And they know that once you start looking into things, their scam will become evident.
All-in-all, your best defense against all kinds of scams is having a cool head and common sense. And now that you know what to look out for, you have all the tools you need to protect yourself and your business.