Published on Feb 29, 2016

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Falling victim to scams cost small businesses nearly $2.3 million in the last six months according to the latest Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Small Business in Focus Report.

It’s a small but significant drop in the $85 million ocean of Australian dollars lost to scams and con artists in 2015.

Many businesses are targeted by cyber criminals able to exploit system weaknesses to gain access to sensitive information stored online like passwords and bank account details. This is commonly done via innocent or official looking emails containing malware able to track your activity and unlock files stored on your computer.

Scams and con artistsSkilled cyber criminals can even mimic email addresses of other employees in your business or people you commonly deal with in other businesses to create trust and get you to provide information you wouldn’t—and shouldn’t—provide to people outside of your networks.

Some of the more common schemes scammers use to target businesses are:

  • False billing; being invoiced or debt collected for purchases you never made or authorised.
  • Cheque overpayment scams; being asked to refund an overpayment amount before finding out the cheque is cancelled and you’re now out of pocket.
  • Online shopping scams; being directed to false listings or seller websites and paying for products you never receive.
  • Investment schemes; if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. On average, a six per cent return is a reasonable expectation when making an investment. If you are being promised returns in excess of 20 per cent proceed with caution. You’re either making an incredibly risky investment or you are being taken for a ride.

When it comes to who is most likely to be scammed, the older you are the more vulnerable you are. Over 65s are most commonly targeted, and women are 6 per cent more likely to be scammed than men. Phone scams remain popular, accounting for 40 per cent of all scams reported. Nearly 30 per cent of scams occurred online.

Visit the Scamwatch website to find out more about the latest scam alerts, as well as for helpful tips to protect your business from scammers and con artists.