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  • Writer's pictureBurton Kelso, Tech Expert

How You Can Help Your Small Business Avoid Holiday Scams & Fraud

If you own a solo or small business, the holidays can be a time of increased profits. Which is a blessing especially if you own a retail shop. Unfortunately, cybercriminals take advantage of this busy time of the year to pad their pockets. The bright side is that it doesn't take much to protect your business from crooks if you take the right steps. Cyber Security is a human problem. Protecting yourself doesn't mean that you need to only make sure your business devices are locked down. It means making sure you and your staff are aware of what threats are out there and taking measures to educate your teams to avoid the latest scams. Check out these quick and easy tips to help keep your business safe from Cybercrooks.

Make backup copies of important information. It doesn't matter what time of year it is, you always need to regularly back up data on every computer and device used in your business including documents, spreadsheets, financial and personnel files, and more. There are many ways you can do this including uploading files to an external hard drive, USB drive, the cloud, or using a paid data backup site.

Understand your vulnerability risk. Every industry is at risk from cyber criminals, but some more than others. For example, if you have a retail business While every industry can be targeted by scammers, there are some more at risk than others. Specifically, retail, automotive, manufacturing, and financial. Not only do these industries process a lot of sensitive data and large quantities of money, but they also use the automated process and many interconnected devices which are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Assessing your risk is the first step in preventing it.

Beware of Credit Card Testing. Retail and services businesses need to be on the lookout. Card testing is a new scam where fraudsters test a credit card to see if the information is valid. When criminals steal credit card information from the dark web, they will visit an eCommerce site to see if the card is active. If they see that it's valid, they will go on to use the card on other sites and make larger purchases or resell the card information to another criminal. How do you know if your small business has been hit with card testing? Here are the signs:

  • You notice a lot of small transactions on your eCommerce site from the same IP address

  • There are a lot of transactions made in a short duration of time.

  • You notice Card Verification Value errors. When you see CVV errors, this could be because the crook only has partial credit card information.

Train yourself and your staff to avoid phishing schemes. Whether you’re a sole proprietor or a company with 10,000 employees, cyber crooks are targeting your business. Smaller businesses usually do not have training processes, or policies in place for cybersecurity defense and offense. There are several options for securing a comprehensive cybersecurity plan such as a managed service provider (MSP), a systems integrator or security system provider, or cybersecurity consultants. You also need to do the following:

  • You can reduce cyber threats by putting policies and procedures in place when it comes to the internet and cyber usage. This is especially important for any seasonal or part-time employees.

  • Avoiding clicking links in unsolicited emails.

  • Paying close attention to spelling and email addresses,

  • Take extreme care if downloading a file from your email or the web.

  • Using multi-factor authentication on all of your web-based company accounts.

  • Remind employees to be vigilant about password safety: Use longer passphrases, never reuse passwords across different systems or websites, and periodically change their passwords.

  • Educate your employees about email safety. Tell them to be suspicious of unsolicited emails and not click on links, open attachments, or provide personal or business information such as login credentials to unverified contacts.

Watch out for fraudulent chargebacks. Chargebacks can be a problem for your small business at any time of the year. This occurs when a customer makes a credit card payment and believes you didn’t hold up your end of the bargain. They will file a dispute with their credit card company. During the holidays, you can see an increase in this. Obviously clear and consistent communication is the best method to prevent this practice. Let your customers know what your terms of service are as well as provide clear receipts. Here are a few more things you can do: and but here are a few things you can do to keep your business safe.

  • Require a signature. When a customer signs that they’ve received the order, you have proof that it’s been delivered and accepted. In the event of a chargeback, this record may help you win your case.

  • Track customers. Using a system that tracks customers and past orders helps you identify irregular purchase patterns from a customer, a sign of potential chargeback fraud.

  • Monitor abnormal orders. Very large orders, multiple orders from the same customer in a short period, and orders with a large number of the same item are common red flags.

Always be vigilant against popular scam tactics used against your small businesses. Hackers will try just about anything to get to your money and sensitive information. Scams like overpayment scams to email, voice, and text messages phishing are something you need to always be on the lookout for. Use common sense and you will keep your business safe.

The holiday season is the busiest sales season of the year, and cyber criminals are standing by, ready to attack unsuspecting businesses. I hope you can use these tips to help keep your small business safe from cybercrime this holiday season. If you need further assistance, please reach out to me with any questions you might have. I am always happy to help!

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