One of the top cyber crimes, and the most lucrative, 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 comprehension 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?

What does “phishing” mean? Phishing is the attempt to access private data, such as financial information, usernames, and passwords. This is attained by making false websites, graphics, email accounts, and phone numbers. The subject is persuaded, by one method or another, to reveal these types of data that may be used to steal their identity (social security numbers are a popular target). For small businesses, phishing scams may attempt to obtain access to customer credit card information. 

Examples of small business phishing scams

Thousands of small business owners have been sent emails by an organization using incredibly realistic IRS-looking letters stating that W-4 forms or other additional forms must be filled out and returned via fax.  This frightened many owners into believing they would be audited or penalized by the IRS for not handling the issue immediately. Unfortunately, they were fraudulent emails and these companies were tricked out of their personal information.

The IRS states on it’s website at IRS.gov, that it will not initiate any contact by email and that you should never click any links on an email sent to you asking you to send anything to the IRS.

Your company email can be a target

Thieves can gain access to a business by targeting a particular individual by sending them deceitful emails that conveys a professionally sincere image. Most of the time these emails will contain a computer virus or malware. It has the ability to infect a company’s entire network, which allows thieves to gain access to confidential data.

Phone phishing

There are also various “phone phishing scams” where phony messages from your bank, for example, ask you to call a phone number and enter your account information.

How to protect your business against phishing

The Anti-Phishing Work Group offers great advice on how to keep your small business from becoming a target of phishing. Here are several of their tips:

  • 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 APWG keeps statistics on phishing scams and offers lots of advice on safe guarding your business.  Phishing is almost impossible for law enforcement to stop.  The best defense is to educate yourself and your employees on how to identify phishing scams and stay up to date on the latest information.


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