One of the top cyber crimes, and the most profitable, are phishing scams. Large corporations such as Sony have been compromised and accounts of these types of cyber crimes are being reported at a high rate. Phishing scams are just as dangerous to small business owners as they are to large corporations.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (partners with the FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) have reported more than 300,000 cases of online phishing scams and other Internet related crimes.
To give you a better understanding as to why your small business is of great worth to a cyber criminal, let’s take a look at what phishing is exactly.
What is phishing?
Phishing is a serious problem, but the term can be a bit unclear. It is the act of illegally trying to acquire private information such as passwords, credit card account numbers, banking account information, usernames, or social security numbers. Phishing is accomplished by creating fake logos, email addresses, authentic looking official websites, and phone numbers. Victims are then under the illusion that it is official business and are compelled to give out their private information, which in turn can be used to steal their identity. Small businesses often suffer from phishing, as the goal is to gain access to their customer’s private information such as credit card account numbers.
Examples of small business phishing scams
There are many models of small business phishing scams. For example, bogus emails have been sent to thousands of smaller businesses that are highly authentic looking from the IRS and even including the IRS logo. These emails explain that they must fill out tax forms or W-4 forms and return these forms by fax. Many business owners trust this information was sent by the IRS and fear that they will be audited if they do not do what the email said was requested of them.
At the official website, IRS.gov, the IRS states that it will not initiate contact through email. So, never click on a link claiming to be from them!
Your company email can be a target
Company emails are easy access for thieves. They can target an individual by sending him or her an email that looks genuine, however when they open it, it can release a virus or malware infecting the entire network. The thieves will then have access to employee’s private information and company data.
Phone phishing refers to fraudulent phone calls where thieves pose as banks and request the victim to “verify” account numbers over the phone in order to steal confidential information.
How to protect your business against phishing
Visiting the Anti-Phishing Work Group will give you wise advice to shield your business against phishing scams and gives you beneficial information on how to avoid becoming a victim. Some of their advice follows, such as:
- Make sure your employees are aware of what phishing scams are, and are cautious when reading and responding to suspicious emails. Always err on the side of caution. Instead of clicking a link, open another browser window and go to the official website.
- Never give out company financial information such as bank routing numbers to an inquiry made via email. Your bank does not need you to confirm your account information…they already have that. An email like that even if it has your bank’s logo is a fake. Make it a habit to check your accounts regularly for suspicious charges and withdrawals.
- Make sure every computer used has up-to-date virus and malware protection. Schedule regular full system scans. Never download “anti-virus” software from an unknown entity. It’s better to stick with trusted brands.
The best way to protect oneself and colleagues from these scams is to be aware of the methods one can use to identify a scam and stay on top of the latest news on the issue.