Cyber fraud hurts businesses, damages relationships and ruins careers. According to ActionFraud UK, Fraud affects 1 in 4 small businesses every year. Last year fraud losses to SMEs were estimated at £18.9 billion. Businesses, especially accounting departments, are always a prime target for online scammers and hackers. If your accounting department has experienced any of the below, you know that someone is trying to hoodwink your business out of your money.

  • Emails or forged documents demand transfer of money, goods or confidential information, often masquerading as originating from authority figures
  • Phone calls demand urgent payment or trying to wheedle out information
  • Phishing, Vishing or Spear-fishing attempts
  • Malware and ransomware attacks demanding payments

How can a business protect against the tricky online fraudsters? Strong internal controls and cyber security measures are the prerequisites. In addition, if your accounting staff is aware of common fraud techniques, the task of safeguarding your business against fraudulent actors becomes a lot easier. By keeping the following points in mind, your business can reduce the risk of scams and frauds.

  1. Assign responsibility for fraud prevention: One of the reasons SMEs are most vulnerable to online fraud is that no one person is responsible for fraud prevention. Give enough attention to setting up controls and place the responsibility of the entire exercise with a capable team or individual.
  2. Stay relaxed, don’t act in a hurry: Online scammers that target businesses often demand transfer of funds or confidential information on an urgent basis. They often pose as the CEO, or an important client or some other authority figure to elicit a quick response in their favour. Train your staff to respond to requests only after confirming the identity of the person making the request or have a policy in place for authorisation of urgent payments.
  3. Call for confirmation: When your employees are faced with unusual requests, it is vital that they can rely on clear protocols to respond appropriately. Set up clear procedures and give the employees authority to call up and confirm with higher authorities within the firm in case of any suspicious requests.
  4. Don’t interact with unsolicited emails or pop-up boxes: One of the most common ways online scammers gain access to a business’ internal email accounts is through email. Setting up a spam filter may help to block many such emails, but not all of them. Ensure that no one from the company clicks on links or downloads attachments from unsolicited emails. Disabling file transfer and limiting the user’s ability to install software programs can also be helpful.
  5. Always report the fraudsters: One of the reasons such a large number of cyber frauds and online scams continue to be successful is that very few people actually report the instances. By reporting any attempts at fraud to the authorities, you reduce the chances of such scams hitting your or anyone else’s business.

Do you feel that your business is in the crosshairs of online scammers? It is essential to invest in strong internal controls, fraud prevention measures and staff training to reduce the risks of fraud.

To learn more about the steps that your business can take to avoid fraud, please check our free Fraud Prevention Checklist for businesses and accounting departments: DOWNLOAD FREE.