Help protect your business from online scams

5-minute read
Online scams are bad for business but, fortunately, there are steps you can take to help stop your business falling prey to common tricks.

From the smallest of enterprises through to companies that span the globe, one thing that all businesses have in common is being susceptible to scams.

While scams may seemingly be as old as time, the way they are delivered continues to evolve as they keep pace with technology.

Over the past few years, retailers have been among the businesses to be regularly targeted by scammers, including through the use of stolen or compromised credit cards.

And they aren’t the only ones.

Early in 2019, NBN Co experienced an 84 per cent increase in the number of enquiries from Australians about suspected scams. Later in the year, the company was receiving 100 calls a day – on average – with more than 9500 suspected-scam enquiries in a single quarter.

Yet it’s clear that online and in-person cons are not all that’s on the rise: so too is public awareness about staying savvy to scams.

The pros and cons

Increased connectivity via services over the nbn™ broadband access network, and the affordability of online services like cloud platforms, has made technology upgrades more accessible than ever for retailers and other small businesses around Australia.

The idea is to create a synergy between fast broadband and tech-enabled productivity tools that streamline typical back-office tasks to simplify, speed up and reduce the costs of these processes.

Yet online scams are a potential hurdle to these productivity boosts.

Common online scams

According to Scamwatch – the dedicated website run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) – in 2019, almost 168,000 instances of scamming were reported in Australia. The staggering financial amount lost? Just shy of $143 million.

And in 2018, Australian businesses lost more than $7.2 million from 5800 reported scams. A 53 per cent increase on 2017, almost four million of those lost dollars were due to sophisticated email scams.

Meanwhile, online shopping scams added up to $3.3 million in 2018 – and that’s only counting the cases reported to the ACCC.

Just some of the common types of online scams that can impact retailers and other small businesses include:

Hacking: scammers gaining access via computers, mobile devices or your network.

Whaling and spear phishing: scammers targeting businesses to gain confidential information for fraudulent reasons.

Remote access scams: scammers claiming they need to perform internet or software repairs via remote internet connection.

False billing: scammers requesting payment of fake invoices.

Overpayment scams: scammers seeking a monetary ‘refund’ for an item or items you are selling.

Online shopping scams: scammers pretending to be legitimate online retailers via fake websites or fake ads on legitimate websites.

Investment scams: scammers pushing individuals or businesses to ‘invest’ in questionable financial opportunities.

Malware: scammers accessing files via erroneous user installation of malware-infected software.

Ransomware: scammers demanding payment for locked files after an infected file has been activated on a user’s device.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to help protect your business against the risks of falling victim to these kinds of scams.

Online scam protection

Across the different types of online scams, Scamwatch offers some common steps that can help defend against potential vulnerabilities:

• Source connected devices and anti-virus software from reputable websites and outlets.

• Ensure your connected devices are up to date with a reliable firewall, ideally also with regularly updated anti-virus and anti-spyware software.

• Don’t open attachments from unfamiliar email addresses and avoid clicking on links you don’t recognise, particularly from senders who claim to be from a bank or other typically trusted organisation that ask you to update or verify personal details. Delete these types of suspicious emails.

• You can use Google or another search engine to research whether a sender or exact phrasing from a subject email is potentially a scam.

• Keep your network and its connected devices secure by regularly changing passwords and backing up relevant data.

• Update passwords and PINs so they’re difficult for others to guess and avoid storing them on your connected devices.

• Be cautious with websites that host free downloads.

• Keep an eye out for a closed padlock or unbroken key in your browser. This indicates a secure (https) website, which is preferable to a non-secure (http) website.

• If an unsolicited caller asks for remote access to your work computers or other connected devices, even if they claim to be from a well-known company, hang up. Additionally, you should not provide credit card, online account details or other personal data to unsolicited callers.

• If you suspect one of your work’s connected devices has been compromised, run security scans with anti-virus and anti-spyware software. If you’re still concerned after a scan, contact the software provider.
 

You can report scams to the ACCC and also find more helpful tips for protecting your small business from scammers on the Stay Smart Online website.

NBN Co scammer advice

If you believe you may have been contacted by a scammer claiming to work for NBN Co, you can visit the dedicated page on our website for more information to help protect yourself from scams, including:

• Don’t share personal details or financial information, including bank details or credit card and gift card digits with unsolicited callers, emailers or door knockers.

• If you receive an unsolicited call, never give the caller remote access to your connected devices by installing remote-access software such as TeamViewer.

• Don’t engage with automated calls (robocalls) that claim disconnection of your nbn™ access network service or existing copper phone line services. NBN Co doesn’t make automated calls. If you have any doubts about a caller, hang up and contact your phone and internet provider directly.

While it may seem daunting, by following these preventative steps, you can help to keep your small business scam-safe and sound.  

Be alert not alarmed. Take time to research, understand and apply tips recommended by cyber security professionals. We recommend these three: