One of the top cyber crimes, and the most lucrative, are phishing scams. Large corporations such as Sony have been jeopardized and reports 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.
Over 300,000 complaints were filed in 2010 to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the National White Collar Crime Center and the FBI. These grievances were from small businesses and individuals victimized by online phishing scams and various other Internet related crimes.
Let’s look at what phishing really is, so that you can gain a greater understanding of why your small businesses may be targeted by a cyber criminal.
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 convinced, by one method or another, to reveal these types of information 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
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.
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 focusing on a particular individual by sending them fraudulent 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.
There are also a number of “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 excellent tips on how to keep your small business from becoming a victim of phishing. Here are a few 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 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.