Small businesses losing on average $11k to scammers: what to watch out for

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released its annual Targeting Scams report. The report reveals small business owners are losing up to $11k on average to scammers.

The report suggests con artists find small business owners a soft target as they are often time-poor and have fewer resources at hand to combat security risks. According to the ACCC, Australian businesses last $132 billion to scammers in 2019, with small and micro businesses those most at risk.

The report found Scammers are increasingly sophisticated, and often ramp up their activity during periods of economic instability. However, the ACCC suggests business owners can take 5 simple steps to help eliminate their risk of falling prey to a scammer.

Five simple steps to avoid scams

  1. Provide your employees with information about common scams so they can identify and avoid them (such as by forwarding this email).
  2. Have strong processes in place for verifying and paying accounts, and make sure all staff know about them.
  3. Ensure your systems have up-to-date anti-virus software.
  4. Consider what business information you post on social media and networking sites, as scammers use publicly available information to target businesses.
  5. Back up your data regularly and store your backups offsite and offline

Common scams targeting businesses

Understanding common scams will help you learn how to avoid them. Scamwatch received almost 6,000 reports from businesses last year. Some of the most reported types of scams were:

  • false billing scams – for example, where scammers intercept legitimate invoices and change the details to include fraudulent payment information
  • business email compromise scams – for example, where scammers impersonate the CEO of a company and request staff transfer funds to them for a variety of reasons, such as to purchase gift cards as a surprise for other staff. These scams caused the highest losses in 2019 across all scams
  • online shopping scams – for example, where a business attempts to buy equipment online and the product never arrives.

You can find more info on common business scams on the Scamwatch website.