As most readers know all too well, scammers actively look to take advantage of any unfortunate situation in order to make a quick buck. This was especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic, when businesses found themselves needing to acquire personal protective equipment, otherwise known as PPE, for their employees only to be conned, losing their money to bad actors and still without the desperately needed supplies. Even at TCA, we regularly find ourselves the targets of phishing emails, and we are constantly on high alert for these types of attacks.
One of the missions of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is to protect consumers – including business owners – from unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices in the marketplace. Last month, to help with the return to in-person work and as a general reminder for all businesses, the FTC released a multi-part “Back to Business” blog series focusing on best practices to protect yourself and your business from financial fraudsters.
In one post, the FTC reminds businesses that important records should be stored on your system and not on employees’ personal devices, such as laptops or cell phones. While there may have been increased leniency during the pandemic, these policies should be reevaluated to ensure data is being securely stored. The post also notes that many companies adopted new platforms and software to keep businesses up and running during the pandemic. While these platforms may have initially been viewed as temporary fixes, if your company plans to continue using them, ensure that they are properly configured to meet your internal security standards.
A second blog post explains that COVID-related business-to-business (B2B) scams are still out there and catching companies off guard. The FTC has received an uptick in complaints regarding “vaccine certificate” scams, in which the criminals contact businesses regarding so-called national vaccine “passports” or “verification apps,” which are not legitimate. The FTC also notes that tens of thousands of people have been victims of unemployment fraud over the last year and encourages businesses to alert their employees to this type of scam and report it to the appropriate authorities if it does take place.
Finally, if you are a small businesses looking for financing, the FTC warns that scammers are very active in this space. Helpful tips include sticking with a local lender, carefully investigating unknown lenders, and understanding the ins and outs of new financing options prior to signing any paperwork.
The FTC’s consumer protection experts have provided many resources that are available to the public and are linked in the “Back to Business” posts above. The Small Business Administration and other federal and state agencies are also ready to help if you become the victim of one of these schemes, and we encourage you to take a look at their resources to defend yourself and your business.