Scams and Small Businesses

Fraud insights, recommendations and actions for small business owners.


Recently two members of my immediate family have been scammed.  With one, the results were devastating; with the other, we caught it in time.

Both members are on public assistance, meaning that they don’t have much to protect. Scammers, however, equally defraud poor and rich people, young and old.

Although my family members are on the edge of the category called Baby Boomers, the Federal Trade Commission reported in February of this year that young people, between the ages of 18 and 34 (Gen Yers and Millennials) represented 43% of the scams.  They lose less money than do the elderly, but the incidents are higher.

Although these numbers are for individual scams, the Better Business Bureau also sees a rise in scams against small businesses.   The Federal Trade Commission has a very handy booklet both in English and Spanish that should be read by every small business owner.

Here are the Federal Trade Commission links in English and Spanish:

Scams and Your Small Business

Las Estafas y Su Pequeno Negocio

Last year, 3 million people reported some kind of fraud to the Federal Trade Commission.

Those reports revealed that over $1.48 billion was lost – an increase of 38% over 2017.  Top reports dealt with imposter scams, debt collection and identity theft.

Although tax-related fraud was down, fraud associated with credit cards was up.  The top 3 states for fraud are Florida, Georgia and Nevada.

One of the scams that hits small businesses the most is the Tech Support Scam. These usually start with one of those annoying pop-up ads that looks like it is from a company you know. I learned this from my programmer son – always check the url.  If it is directed from somewhere other than the place that is pretending to be the tech support company, stop now.

The goal these scammers have is to get your money and to do so through accessing your computer. They may ask you to pay them to fix the problem that doesn’t really exist or enroll your company in a nonexistent computer maintenance program.  Without realizing it, you may inadvertently give them access to sensitive data like your passwords, your customer records or credit card information.

Besides identifying the website, the FTC recommends the following actions if you believe you are being scammed:

  1. SEND NO $. If you send money, you won’t get it back.
  2. End the conversation either online or by phone IMMEDIATELY
  3. Report the activity to the local police first and then follow up with a report to the FTC

Be aware of potential scammers as well.  Usually they position themselves in the following ways:

  1. As someone you trust, for example, the local police department, or the IRS
  2. They have a sense of urgency. They will usually say that you have only 24 hours to react.
  3. Use intimidation and fear. Don’t fall for it.
  4. Use untraceable payment processes. A lot of these scam originate off short.  Recently, someone told me that the reason the US is inundated with scams from Nigerian princes is because the US does not prosecute those scammers. Most other countries attempt to do so.

Bottomline is BEWARE and diligent.  Be cautious, be tech savvy, train your employees and reconcile your accounts every month.

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Theresa Kushner
Theresa Kushner
Theresa Kushner is a self-styled data-vangelist who brings her passion for all things data into her consultancy. Having held positions in F100 companies for most of her career, she now dedicates her time to helping start-ups and small/medium businesses scale using their customer information. She applies the skills she acquired as an executive at Dell EMC, VMware, Cisco Systems and IBM to help leaders apply data governance and 21st century data management techniques to their business intelligence and advanced analytics programs. She helps companies determine whether they are ready to take advantage of advanced techniques such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic process engineering. She also helps guide companies in using more effectively for customer experience the data they collect on a daily basis. Ms. Kushner co-authored “Managing Your Business Data from Chaos to Confidence” with Maria Villar in 2009 and 2015 collaborated with Ruth P Stevens on “B2B Data-Driven Marketing: Sources, Uses, Results.” Ms. Kushner is a graduate of the University of North Texas where she received a Master of Arts in Journalism. She serves on the Advisory Boards of UNT Mayborn School of Journalism as well as

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