Several months ago, an employee of mine received a text from me saying I was in a meeting and needed her to do a “quick task” and “physically go to any nearby store and purchase an Apple gift certificate. I need the card’s back codes for a presentation. I [will] reimburse you when I’m through. Thanks.”
The employee thought the text seemed “odd” and forwarded it to our management team. She was right; I never sent that text. It was a scam.
We immediately alerted everyone in our growing company to look out for scam texts and to remind our clients, mostly business owners, to be aware.
This wasn’t the first time an employee received a scam text “from me,” and I assumed it wouldn’t be the last. I decided to learn more so I could warn my team and our clients about what to look for — before it’s too late.
The info was overwhelming and startling. The biggest problem is most small business owners assume (wrongly) their companies are too small for cybercriminals to target. So they don’t protect themselves, leaving their businesses as sitting ducks.
But you can protect your small business. Here’s some of what I learned.
The 2023 Hiscox Cyber Readiness Report contained some scary stats:
I started there because we were targeted — twice — by a text scammer. When the pandemic erupted and so many businesses (like ours) had employees scattered nationwide, the number of text scams, many targeting small businesses, spiked and remained elevated.
In 2022, text scams cost businesses $330 million, more than twice the amount in 2021 and almost five times 2019’s losses.
It’s critical your team knows what to look for. In addition to being alert to unusual messages, like the one my employee received, the top business text scams share several common characteristics. Scammers often:
According to the FBI, Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams have led to more financial losses than any other fraud in the U.S. BEC scammers generally target the business owner, CFO or accounting department, asking for money to be wired to them for what sounds like legitimate reasons.
Phishing scams try to trick people into revealing personal information or click on malicious links. Phishing attacks are often disguised as legitimate companies’ emails, texts or social posts. However, the messages’ links lead to fake websites that steal your information (BECs are one form of phishing).
Phishing is a huge concern. APWG’s 2022 Phishing Activity Trends Report shows over 4.7 million attacks in 2022, representing 150% annual growth since 2019.
After my research, we immediately instituted protection measures. Scammers often target multiple employees simultaneously, so we encourage our staff to share information about texts, emails or other messages that seem suspect.
Plus, before responding to a message from anyone on staff asking for money or credit card information, they should first check with the person who made the ask. Managers were told not to make legitimate asks via these channels to avoid confusion.
Tell your employees to:
We also distributed a scam-spotting brochure we got for free from the FTC.
Verizon’s 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report says about 24% of cyber breaches are ransomware attacks. It’s hard to avoid ransomware — Verizon says it’s ubiquitous in businesses of all sizes and all industries.
To protect your business from ransomware demands:
The most essential element is to educate your employees. Verizon’s report says 74% of all breaches involve the human element.
Verizon says, “Cybercriminals are coming for [your] data.” We are lucky our employee didn’t act on the text she got and we didn’t lose money. Hopefully, if you educate your team about what to look for, your company can avoid becoming the victim of scammers.
This content was originally published here.