Protect your small business
How scammers con small businesses
Scams targeting small businesses come in various forms—from invoices for advertising or directory listings that were never requested to dubious office supplies that were never ordered.
Protect yourself and your business by being aware of the common scams targeting small businesses.
Small business scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated and scammers will go to great lengths to convince you that the documents they send you or the offers they make are legitimate.
However, they can easily copy or modify letterheads, names and logos to make them look real, or set up a professional-looking but fake website. Scammers can even gain access to your supplier’s email account and intercept emails without either of you realising.
Scammers recognise that small business operators are busy and have fewer resources than large businesses, so they aim to take advantage of that.
Common scams targeting small business
Investment schemes involve getting you or your business to part with money on the promise of a questionable financial opportunity.
Online shopping scams
Oline shopping scams involve scammers pretending to be legitimate online sellers, either with a fake website or a fake ad on a genuine retailer site.
False billing scams request you or your business to pay fake invoices for directory listings, advertising, domain name renewals or office supplies that you did not order.
Overpayment scams work by getting you to ‘refund’ a scammer who has sent you a cheque for too much money for an item you are selling.
Malware & ransomware
Malware tricks you into installing software that allows scammers to access your files and track what you are doing, while ransomware demands payment to ‘unlock’ your computer or files.
Whaling & spear phishing
Whaling or spear phishing scams target businesses or organisations in an attempt to get confidential information for fraudulent purposes.
Running an online business can come with its share of risks – using the internet can open your business up to being targeted by scammers from anywhere in the world. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources online to help you out.
Learn to recognise common online scams to avoid getting caught out. These can include:
- taxation scams – scammers can disguise themselves as government agencies, such as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), to trick you into revealing details such as your tax file number (TFN) over the internet.
- online transaction scams – including auction or shopping scams, spam offers, online banking or credit card scams, or spyware
- internet domain name scams.
Internet domain name scams
These scams target businesses with websites by promising to renew or secure their domain name (or web address) before another business claims it. Business owners could be sent a legitimate-looking email or invoice with payment details for this service.
Under this scam you’ll be sent either an unsolicited invoice or email for an internet domain name registration usually very similar to your own business domain name. You could also be sent a renewal notice for your actual domain name. The notice could be from a business that supplies domain names trying to trick you into signing up to their service or it could be from a scammer trying to take your money.
The ACCC’s Scamwatch website provides information about the domain name renewal scam on its False billing webpage. Do your homework to avoid being caught out.
How to protect your business from internet scams
The ATO’s tips for recognising and avoiding tax-related scams and fraud include:
- report emails that offer tax refunds in exchange for entering personal information
- report emails which inform you that you owe the ATO money or your account is in arrears and you will be taken to court
- always use ATO’s online services by visiting the ATO website
- make sure you keep your tax file number (TFN) and passwords secure.
If you’re a small business owner, you need to be aware that you’re a target for scammers.
Scammers will often go to great lengths to convince you that their offer or request is legitimate, so it’s important that you remain aware of typical scams and know what to do if you’re targeted.
Common scams targeting business
- Grant related scams
- Tax time scams – this includes tax refund and phishing scams
- Online scams – including internet website domain name scams
- False billing scams
- Identity theft scams
- Charity scams.
Keep a watchful eye out for anything suspicious, and do your research into any offers you might receive, especially through your email. If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam, report the scam online to Scamwatch.
What to do…
- Visit Scamwatch’s Protect your small business page for more information on scams targeting small businesses, and learn how to protect yourself from scammers.
- Download the ACCC’s Business scams fact sheet for free.
- Subscribe to the ACCC’s Small Business Information Network to receive all relevant ACCC small business news to your inbox.
- Subscribe to Scamwatch radar alerts to keep up to date with the latest scams.
- Report a scam online to Scamwatch if you feel you have been a victim of a scam or targeted by scammers.
- If you aren’t sure if a business is legitimate, you can check to see if they are registered on ABN Lookup.
- Get the facts about online transactions and banking security from Stay Smart Online.
- Read The Little Black Book of Scams, published by the ACCC, to learn more about popular scams and tips to avoid them, and visit the ACCC’s Avoiding scams webpage.