6 different online scams that your business needs to be aware of

Nowadays, many businesses would feel powerless without their computers. We depend on our technology to help us run our lives, and businesses are no exception – which is why it’s important to learn how to manage your IT risk. Technology is great, but it’s also a weak spot for businesses because computers can be targeted by hackers. The reality is that even though our machines seem nice and secure, locked away in our office building or store, they’re actually very susceptible to attack. In the hands of a hacker, computers are like putty. And, to be honest, so are humans. We’re not as smart as we like to think we are sometimes. And that’s why it’s so important to go over a few different online scams that could hurt your business, which is exactly what we’re going to do in this article.

Scam #1: Social Engineering.

To sum up social engineering into a concise, fun-sized definition, it’s when a hacker takes advantage of human nature to gain access to things they shouldn’t have access to. That could be a physical premises (like an office), a computer system, or sensitive data. For example, it could be someone posing as a computer technician claiming that they need to work on something in the server room. They have the uniform, the clipboard, and the walkie-talkie to prove it, so a well-meaning employee shows them the way. But before you know it, bam – you’ve been hacked.

Social engineers are masters of disguise. They know how to play their part so that they don’t make anyone suspicious. Basically, they count on a few aspects of human nature to trick people. They’re banking on the fact that people like to avoid conflict, that they’re greedy, that they’re sympathetic, and that they have a need for closure.

1. Conflict: Social engineers know that people don’t want to get into a confrontation, so they act with confidence when they ask for information or access that they shouldn’t have. They know that if they seem bold and assured people won’t challenge them.

2. Greed: Social engineers know that people are always looking for a deal or a giveaway, and they use this to their advantage.

3. Sympathy: Hackers know that if they can build a relationship and camaraderie, they can get people to lower their guard.

4. Need for closure: Social engineers know that people might question them, so they have an answer for everything. And because they have a confident, semi-reasonable answer ready, they get the questioner to feel satisfied that they’ve done their job in asking.

The best defense against social engineering scams for you and your employees is to know the ways in which you can be tricked so that you don’t stumble into a trap. It can be very costly and difficult to figure out how to handle a data breach.

Scam #2: Phishing scams.

Remember that Google Docs hack that went around a while back? That was an example of phishing, which is when hackers try to get information like usernames, passwords, and even credit card numbers by masquerading as a trusted being. Another example could be an email from your “bank” asking you to verify your account information. Basically, phishing scams try to trick you into opening a link that will allow malicious programs to infiltrate your computer. They also might try to trick you into giving them your personal information voluntarily (like the bank example.)

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Avoid being a victim of phishing scams - don't open links in suspicious emails.

Make sure that your employees are aware of phishing scams. They need to know that they should not, under any circumstances, open a link that looks sketchy. They need to know not to give their personal information or company information to anyone that they’re not 110% sure is legit. If they’re in doubt, they should contact the company or person claiming to have sent the email and verify it first.

Pro tip: Look out for spear phishing, a type of phishing in which the sender poses as a family member, friend, or coworker to trick people into clicking on things. People tend to trust things that come from people they know, which is exactly why phishers set up their diabolical plots this way. This is why it’s so important to check with the coworker or friend to make sure that the email is real.

Scam #3: Pharming.

Hackers can steal parts of websites and create a phony website around it so that their fake site will appear in searches. Then the unsuspecting user, who thinks they’re on a respectable, perfectly legitimate website, enters their personal information. And they’re a goner. That’s why it’s so important to be wary about entering personal information.

Scam #4: Vishing.

Vishing scams are just like phishing scams, but with a phone call instead of an electronic message. The backer might pose as a bank representative or someone from another scary organization and trick your employee into divulging confidential information. Make sure that all of your employees are aware of this threat so that they don’t get tricked by a smooth talker on the phone. When in doubt, don’t give any sensitive information to the person on the other end of the phone.

Scam #5: Corporate identity theft.

Hackers and thieves can steal a business’s identity just like they can a person’s. They can do this through stealing a company’s credit history to open false accounts, Dumpster diving for sensitive information, or by plain old hacking. Be sure to check all of your financial statements carefully and keep an eye on your sensitive data. Protect your computers with firewalls and encryption.

Scam #6: Social media.

Hackers are everywhere, including social media. Just like with emails, they can post links that will infect computers. They can glean sensitive information about your business from photos posted by employees. That’s why it’s so important to have a social media policy for your business and know how to lower your social media risks.

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Many small business owners don’t think that they’re at risk for hackers and data breaches, but the truth is that businesses with fewer than 100 employees have been experiencing a rise in cyber attacks. As an employer, make sure that your employees have the knowledge and the tools they need to protect your business – and their own personal information. Hackers are very, very good at what they do, and they’re ruthless. That’s why everyone needs to be aware of the ways that they can be fooled into being hacked.

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