• Business planning and strategy

Too Good to Be True? How to Frustrate the Fraudsters

Guest Blogger | June 7, 2016


It seems that increasingly, in my personal and business life, I’m solicited by fraudsters: at my front door, on my phone, through my email, and even via text message.

Just last night, my partner let her guard down for a split second and absent-mindedly clicked on a link in a text message, not realizing it was a phishing scam. A half hour’s worth of frantic phone calls to our bank’s customer service line later, we breathed easier (and spent another half hour updating all of our passwords for online commerce).

This happened to a seasoned web user (and Olympic-caliber texter) who worked for over a decade as a business analyst for a major telecom company. It just goes to show you that even the most eagle-eyed, technologically-savvy recipient can be drawn into a scam.

If you are like one in five small business owners in Canada, you know what it feels like to be scammed.

That’s one of the key findings of a new report on fraud and small businesses: 20% of Canadian small businesses have fallen victim to a scam last year.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) just wrapped a month-long initiative (in conjunction with the Competition Bureau and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) focused on fraud prevention, complete with tips for business owners on credit card fraud, directory scams, internal fraud, and health and safety hoaxes.

The campaign included a groundbreaking new report focused on fraud’s effect on Canadian small businesses, based on survey data from small business owners. It’s the first of its kind to explore fraud in a small business context, and some the findings will look familiar to anyone who runs a business:

  • The average cost of fraud over the last year to those businesses that suffered a financial loss was $6,200
  • Small businesses spent an average of $2,900 last year on fraud prevention measures (e.g., paper shredding, alarm systems, computer security software)
  • The impact of non-financial losses was reported to be greater than money lost: survey respondents pointed to stress, lost time, and a negative effect on staff morale
  • Many businesses don’t report fraud to police

And what were the three most common types of scams to hit small businesses?

  1. Bogus payments
  2. Email scams
  3. Directory fraud

Despite some of the troubling data, small businesses can get ahead of the problem by taking some proactive initiative. In this case, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure.

You will do your business a valuable service by familiarizing yourself with some of the devious schemes scam artists are trying to pull on unsuspecting victims.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Mystery Shopper Scam? It’s quite a piece of work.

Or maybe you have to keep a closer eye on employees who have gone rogue?

Are you aware of how in-store displays of gift cards can be manipulated and used as a scam? Read this piece on fighting gift card fraud.

If your business processes credit cards for payment, you can help your employees learn what to look for so you aren’t vulnerable to credit card scams. Download this free poster for your employees — it highlights some red flags on credit card fraud and payment terminal fraud.

In the final analysis, the more you know about how these scams work, the less susceptible you’ll be.

Your best defence against fraud is knowledge, common sense, and your own intuition.

Once you’ve empowered yourself and your employees with awareness, tactics and preventative strategies, you’ll be well-placed to frustrate the best efforts of fraudsters.

Written By: Brett Hughes, Business Writer, CFIB

About Brett:
Brett Hughes is a business writer for CFIB, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving Canada’s small business community. To learn about CFIB’s free membership program for first-time entrepreneurs, visit MyStartUp.ca. To read more My StartUp advice provided by Brett and other entrepreneurial-minded individuals, visit the My StartUp blog.