Online scams are prevalent in our society. Despite the consumer protection laws that exist, a criminal who is clever enough can still find a way to trick people.
And by small businesses, I don’t mean the big or multinational corporations — I mean your local store, hair salon, mechanic shop.
Take into account that even though these scams are specifically targeting small business owners, the thieves could be anyone with their internet connection and some knowledge of how fraud works.
Online Scams Against Small Business
Without any knowledge of how to avoid scams or tips on what to watch out for next time someone tries pulling one on you (especially since many businesses don’t publicize their security systems), it is up to you as an individual to do your best at staying safe online.
1. Mystery Shopper:
This scam is best known for their emails, which are usually sent out with a “Mystery Shopper” title. It comes from some company or other, and asks you to be a mystery shopper for them.
The email says they will pay you $200-$500 to go into stores and buy products so they can see how the staff treat their customers.
What it really does is send the person who receives the email to a link that downloads malware on your computer (for example, on your home computer).
After that malware will then get access to any credit cards you have saved on your computer, and the whole purpose of this is so that they can make purchases online or over the phone with it.
2. Multilevel Marketing Schemes:
Multilevel marketing schemes are similar to the mystery shopper online scam.
They tend to present themselves as very high-income opportunities; however, they always promise very high returns, especially if you sign up as an “Affiliate” which is supposed to mean they pay you a commission for helping them sell their products.
In reality it means that if you do a couple of the jobs they have for you, they will get you started and then recruit more people below your rank so that eventually they can manipulate your commissions down to nothing.
This type of scheme will also ask you to recruit more people this way. The idea is that by the time you figure out that you’ve been scammed, it’s already too late.
3. Business Coaches:
This another online scam that seems convincing, as it’s supposed to be for entrepreneurs. It’s probably best to just avoid these at all costs.
These scams are full of people who promise that they can teach you how to start your own business and make millions.
When a company is in its early stages, many business owners will pay for a coach to help them out. When the business gets larger, however, it becomes more difficult to find time to work with an outside individual.
Therefore it may be tempting to hire someone from overseas, who will charge you less and be significantly more accessible.
In actuality this person is not a professional coach but someone who’s looking to gain access to your website or social media page so that they can start posting spam messages or advertisements there.
Sometime this is often done through freelancer websites as well; they’ll send you a cheap bid then start their scam right away.
4. Phishing and smishing:
A message is sent to your inbox, and it appears to be something from a friend. In this case, the email looks very authentic. The subject will have something like “Sending you a personal note” or “Message From Your Pal”.
In most cases they will try to do an impersonation of someone that you know and trust. The email may look legitimate, but there will be several red flags as well.
If this happens to you, it’s best to ignore the email entirely and delete it immediately rather than click on the link it contains. So avoid this online scams by being cautious.
This is a simpler version of the overpayment scam mainly used by hackers. This is most commonly done with email messages, although it can happen through phone calls or social networks as well in some instances.
The overpayment scammer will attempt to obtain sensitive information from you by claiming that they have access to an account and need immediate access to that information.
A lot of people fall for this, and unfortunately they lose money or their personal data altogether.
You should never give out information like passwords or bank account details over the telephone unless you know who you are talking to (and what their agenda is).
6. Vanity Scam:
This scam involves emailing a scammer pretending to be the victim’s friend, relative, or bank, and asking them to send money immediately.
Sometimes these emails will look like phishing attempts, but other times they will have the correct details of the victim.
It can be tricky to work out if this is happening to you, and it’s important not to panic but instead follow your gut and get advice from someone that you trust.
The emails might look like this:
I am in Africa and I need financial help. I received an email from an official bank in Uganda, saying that I have been selected to win a prize.
They are sending me vouchers with a code which are worth $5,000 each. I was told not to cash these vouchers and just give them to a third party who would then supply me with a replacement voucher in exchange for mine.
7. The Credit Card Scam:
They call and tell you that your credit card is being compromised and they need to verify the number again in order to ensure the validity of your account.
Afterwords, in a rush, you’ll say yes and provide them with your credit card number over the phone. This scam is easily avoidable if you simply hang up on such calls.
Really though, no one will call you to verify your credit card number.
Unfortunately sometimes they can even try to make it seem like a debt collector over the phone.
Always remember that no one has the authorization to ask for your credit card number unless you have initiated the call yourself or are expecting incoming charges from a pre-authorized company.
8. False Invoices:
You get an invoice in the mail from a company and it looks legitimate. You usually never think something like this is false, but it happens to a lot of people unfortunately.
Sometimes you may be asked to pay thousands of dollars for something that you’ve never received. They can use someone else’s name and make it look very real including the logo, address, and all details that you could think of.
How do they do this?
They spoof the company’s email address so that when you try to email them back, they don’t really exist so there is no way to ask them about what happened with your order or if you even ordered from them at all.
Also read: 7 Facebook Marketing Myths You Need to See
9. Fax-back scam:
This happens when they send you an invoice alongside a fax machine and ask for payment through the system.
Fax machine can be hard to see, as well as the invoice itself. It’s best to avoid these scams by being careful about who you do business with online.
They can also call before sending you a fax and saying that they’re from your bank or the police or whatever. Make sure you look into the number before swiping it away – not everybody will be legit.
Online scams are always happening and unfortunately the something that you can easily avoid happen a lot too. You can be looking to buy something online and then someone spots an item cheaper on another website.
There is also information being leaked by hackers or stolen from social media blogs which results in fake merchandise sites popping up everywhere. As a result, people are being scammed out of hundreds of dollars every month.
All you need to do to stay safe is know the potential scams and avoid them. If you follow this advice, then you’ll be able to get your money back in most cases. Also have a look at this 6 Scams That Target Small Businesses