There is so much data and information flying around nowadays that it is often difficult to know which is legitimate and which part of an online scam is. For small businesses and their employees, nowhere is this more marked than when we use email. If you think it couldn’t happen to you, then consider the fact every year online scams cost the UK £3.3 billion and barely 5% of attacks are actually reported. Online fraud is on the increase and we all need to help combat it.

Unfortunately, because of our desire to become more connected, it opens us, both as individuals and as corporations, to the hackers and scammers who want only one thing: To take our hard earned cash. That means SMEs need to have up-to-date IT security and make sure a robust online strategy is in place that all staff are aware of.

How to Spot an Email Scam
From overseas estates that want your help in releasing large sums of money to banks pretending that your account is at risk, the range of scams or phishing emails is quite broad. What they usually depend on is sending their message to millions of recipients with the hope that a few will take the bait.

  • They will normally be asking for IMMEDIATE and URGENT action on your part.
  • They may include a link which, when you click on it, releases a virus and infects your pc.
  • They will often pretend to be from your bank or a regular online shopping outlet but the actual email has no relation to the company.
  • They generally address you as ‘Dear Friend’ or ‘Dear Customer’ rather than something more personal.
  • They invariably, but not always, look sloppy and unprofessional.

Needless to say you should not click on any link if you are not sure of the provenance of an email. But where does that leave any business with a large number of employees who all have access to the online world?

The Impact on Small Business of Online Fraud
SMEs are being stung for billions of pounds a year, according to some research. Security experts at Kaspersky revealed that 82% of small business thought they would not be the target of hacking attacks because they were simply ‘too small’. In the US last year, 41% of SMEs were the subject of attacks which means many are not taking the threat seriously enough. In truth, online fraud costs business money and it can be highly damaging, potentially setting your company up for collapse.

Developing an IT Policy for your Business and Employees
The first step in protecting your business from online threats is to make sure that you have a robust IT policy in place that everyone is aware of. This should include education on what to look out for, particularly in emails, as well as providing employees with relevant updates of the latest threats.

The Importance of having a good security procedure in place cannot be underestimated for small to medium size business. This includes:

  • Best practice with passwords – making them more than 8 characters in length, containing upper and lower case letters, characters, and not using proper words that can easily be ‘guessed’ by current hacking software.
  • A regularly updated virus and spam software provision as well as a powerful firewall that prevents inbound attacks.
  • Higher level services such as a full security check of your systems and help in creating your IT policy via an established provider.

With more and more devices being used for conducting business from smartphones and tablets to laptops, it pays for SMEs to have a comprehensive IT support structure in place that ensures that you and your staff are protected from the scammers and hackers who can do so much damage.

Author's Bio: 

I am Erika Chitty. I work for M2Computing in Operations & Sales support. At M2Computing, We provide flexible and affordable Small Business IT Support, systems support, Cloud Backup Support and virtual desktop services across the South East, UK.