Phishing Scams: How To Protect Your Small Business From Cyber Thieves

December 7th, 2011

One of the top cyber crimes, and the most lucrative, are phishing scams.  Large corporations such as Sony have been compromised 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.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), received over 300,000 complaints in 2010 from both individuals and small businesses that have been victims 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?

Phishing is the act of attempting to get private data such as usernames, passwords, credit card and banking information. This is easily done by creating fake websites, logos and email addresses and phone numbers. The victim is compelled in some way to reveal private information such as social security numbers and or other information that can be used to steal their identity. In the case of a small business, the phishing scam may be used to acquire customer credit card numbers.

Examples of small business phishing scams

There are many models of small business phishing scams.  For example, fake 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, 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

Another way these thieves gain information is by concentrating on a specific individual within a business by sending him or her some kind of phony communication that looks completely legitimate but ends up launching a virus or malware. This virus then infects the entire network, giving thieves access to private company data. 

Phone phishing

Beware that there are also “Phone phishing scams”, in which someone claiming to be from a bank, for instance, might ask you to call and verify your account.

How to protect your business against phishing is the Anti-Phishing Work Group, and their objective is to provide wonderful advice on how to ensure your business does not fall victim to phishing. Listed here are some 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.


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