If you’re a small business owner, you might think that you’re immune to internet scams. After all, why would scammers target your business when there are so many larger companies out there to exploit? Unfortunately, the truth is that small businesses are just as vulnerable to internet scams as larger ones. In fact, according to an FBI report released this month, Americans lost $10.3 billion to internet scams last year (2022), with the losses being the highest in five years. As a web development agency, we take cybersecurity very seriously and want to raise awareness among small business owners of the risks of internet scams.
The most common type of internet scam is phishing, with over 300,000 victims reporting losses of over $52 million in 2022. Phishing is the use of unsolicited emails, text messages, and telephone calls purportedly from a legitimate company requesting personal, financial, and/or login credentials. These emails often resemble those from people victims know personally, prompting them to click on unsecured links. Once the victim clicks on the link, the scammers can then access their personal information, such as login credentials or credit card information, leading to significant financial losses.
Another common type of internet scam is a non-payment scam, which claimed over 51,000 victims in 2022. In this type of scam, scammers pretend to be interested in purchasing goods or services from a small business but then fail to pay for them. The small business is left with lost revenue and a product or service that it cannot sell.
Data breaches are also a growing concern, with over 58,000 victims in 2022. In a data breach, scammers gain access to a company’s sensitive information, such as customer data or financial information. This type of scam can result in significant financial losses for both the company and its customers.
Ransomware is another type of internet scam that is of particular concern for cybersecurity professionals. In a ransomware attack, scammers lock up a device’s data until a ransom is paid. The healthcare industry was the most heavily targeted industry for ransomware attacks in 2022, followed by critical manufacturing and government. However, the FBI does not encourage paying a ransom to criminal actors, as it may embolden adversaries to target additional organizations and fund illicit activities.
Call center scams, which are primarily based in India, are responsible for over $1 billion in losses to victims. These scams overwhelmingly target the elderly, with almost half of the victims over the age of 60 experiencing 69% of the losses.
It’s important for small business owners to take proactive steps to protect themselves from internet scams. This can include implementing strong cybersecurity measures, such as using strong passwords and regularly updating software, as well as training employees to recognize and avoid scams. Small business owners should also be wary of unsolicited emails, phone calls, and text messages, and should only provide personal or financial information when it is absolutely necessary and when they are confident that they are dealing with a legitimate company.
In the event of an internet scam, it’s important to report it to the authorities as soon as possible. The FBI has a 73% success rate in getting victims their funds back, according to the report.
In the UK, small business owners can report internet scams to Action Fraud, the national fraud and cybercrime reporting center. Action Fraud is the UK’s central point of contact for reporting fraud and cybercrime incidents, and they work closely with local law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cybercriminals. Business owners can report scams online or by phone, and they will receive a police crime reference number that can be used to track the progress of the investigation.
In addition to reporting scams, small business owners in the UK can also receive support and advice from various organizations. For example, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) provides guidance and resources to help businesses protect themselves from cyber threats. The Cyber Aware campaign, which is run by the NCSC, offers practical advice on how to improve cybersecurity, such as using strong passwords and enabling two-factor authentication. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) also provides guidance and support to its members on cybersecurity issues.
By being vigilant and taking proactive steps to protect themselves, small business owners can minimize their risk of falling victim to internet scams.