How to protect your business against six common scams

Blogs 19 Oct 2022

The cost of living is on the rise, but unfortunately, bills aren’t the only thing that are seeing an increase. From phishing to identity theft, discover how you can protect your small business against scams and fraud with Aldermore Bank’s top tips.

Since the pandemic, the number of scams designed to trick consumers into handing over their personal details and cash-in on current financial uncertainties has also been on the up. Pension scams, travel scams, and fake charities are all among the methods fraudsters have been using to dupe unwitting consumers. With the energy crisis at the forefront of everyone’s mind, the Business and Energy Secretary, Jacob Rees Mogg, recently stepped in to warn against fake messages claiming to be from Ofgem.

But, with claims estimating that as many as one-in-three have already fallen victim, what should you be looking out for and what action do you need to take if you fear you have fallen foul of a fraudulent message? Aldermore Bank explains how you can take steps to protect your small business against fraud.

Types of fraud

1. Remote access or computer software scams

This type of scam tries to convince you that you have a problem with your computer or internet connection. You’ll be called by someone who claims to be from your telecoms or broadband provider and they’ll request remote access or ask you to download software to your computer to fix a problem. By providing access or downloading the software, you’re providing the scammer with access to your computer. They’ll then look to compromise your security by accessing your sensitive information or financial accounts.

Our advice:

  • Never provide sensitive or personal information to an unsolicited caller.
  • Don’t be persuaded to download software or allow remote access to your computer or device.
  • Never share online banking login details or passwords with anyone.
2. Safe account scam

You’ll be contacted by someone claiming to be from a trusted organisation such as your bank (typically the fraud team) or the police, who’ll tell you that your account has been compromised in some way and that you need to move your money to a 'safe account'. The details they’ll give you will be fraudulent and once you move your money they’ll have access to it.

Our advice:

  • Your bank or the police will never ask you to move money to a “safe account” or send someone to your home to collect cash, cards or cheque books if you are a victim of fraud.
  • If you’re ever suspicious about any contact, always call the organisation back on a number you can trust (e.g. as detailed on your account statement).
3. Push payment fraud

Push Payment Fraud is where scammers convince a customer to transfer money to them. The scammers may pose as a legitimate business or individual who is known to you, typically via email, to inform you that their bank account details have changed and to make a payment to the new account. The scammer may have intercepted emails and therefore have information to make them appear convincing, such as information about who you are due to make payment to.

Our advice:

  • If you’re expecting to make a payment online or over the phone, always check the details with the person or business you’re paying, via an independently verified source, before you send your money.

How could a fraudster contact you?

4. Email scams (Phishing)

Email fraud is commonly referred to as ‘phishing’. Always be suspicious of unsolicited emails that are supposedly from your bank or some other trusted organisation because the address can be easily faked. The email will typically encourage you to click a link and log into your account, by telling you your account has been locked or that there’s been an unauthorised login attempt. In reality, the link in the email goes to a fake website that collects your information or targets your computer with a computer virus. Another version of this scam involves an email attachment, which is in fact a computer virus.

Our advice:

  • Be sceptical when it comes to your emails – if one looks even remotely suspicious, don’t open it or click on any links.
  • Look at how you’re addressed. Scammers will often use a general greeting such as Dear Sir, Dear Madam or Dear Customer. Poor spelling or formatting can also be giveaways, but you cannot always count on that.
5. Phone scams (Vishing)

Vishing (“voice phishing”) is the same as phishing, but you’ll be contacted by telephone rather than email. You’ll get an unsolicited phone call encouraging you to give out your personal details, such as sensitive financial information. The fraudsters might call you on your mobile phone or landline pretending to be calling from your bank or another mainstream provider offering a ‘one-time deal’ or an unsolicited upgrade. They may already have some of your personal information such as your name, address, or phone number to make them sound genuine.

Our advice:

  • Never give out your personal details (such as your online banking login details) over the phone, even to a caller claiming to be from your bank or the police.
  • If you get a call asking for this information, end the call immediately, wait at least 5 minutes and contact your bank on a trusted number. Never call back on a number that the caller has given you.
6. Text messaging scams (Smishing)

A text message might not be from who you think – Smishing is when scammers pretend a message is from your bank or another organisation you trust. They will usually tell you there’s been fraud on your account and will ask you to deal with it by calling a number or accessing a hyperlink. Please take a moment to stop and think if the message has come from a legitimate source.

Our advice:

  • Don’t click on any of the links, and check the number with your bank or financial institution to ensure that it is genuine.
  • If you click on the link by mistake, run a scan with your antivirus software to check for any malicious software.

Protecting your identity

Usually, identity thieves work online, looking for snippets of information about your life in social media posts and profiles, and unprotected email accounts. They exploit the fact that people like to share personal information with their online friends – and can be lax with security. Equally, they can find confidential information like National Insurance and bank account numbers in un-shredded rubbish. It doesn’t take many of these snippets for them to successfully steal your identity and wreak havoc with your life.

Our advice:

  • Never share account details or other information that you use to prove your identity with friends, family or other people.
  • Think about what you share on social media, such as date of birth and family members’ or pets’ names you also use in your passwords. Don’t post details or images of your driver’s licence, passport, NI number or other confidential items.
  • Never reveal private information in response to an email, text, letter or phone call unless you’re certain that the request is authentic. Call to check, on the number you know to be correct.
  • Install the latest software, app, and operating system updates on your computer and mobile devices. Better still, set them to update automatically.
  • Make sure all your passwords are strong and keep them safe. Don’t use the same password for more than one account. Use a strong and separate password for your email accounts.
  • Don’t connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots when doing anything confidential online.
  • File sensitive documents securely, and shred those you no longer need.

Take five to stop fraud

Take Five is an initiative led by UK Finance. Its aim is to encourage people to stop and take time to think before they act. Always remember these five rules:

  1. Never disclose security details, such as your PIN or full banking password
  2. Don’t assume an email, text, or phone call is authentic
  3. Don’t be rushed – a genuine organisation won’t mind waiting
  4. Listen to your instincts – you know if something doesn’t feel right
  5. Stay in control – don’t panic and make a decision you’ll regret

What to do if you suspect you’ve been a victim of fraud

Don’t be too embarrassed to report it – more and more people are being deceived by ever more sophisticated methods. If you believe you’ve fallen for a scam, contact your bank immediately on a number you know to be correct, such as the one listed on your statement, their website, or on the back of your debit or credit card.

Report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or online. If you are in Scotland, please report to Police Scotland directly by calling 101 or Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000.

This content was provided by Aldermore Bank, whose award-winning business savings accounts are helping small businesses flourish. Find out more about how to make your money work harder.  

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