How to protect your business and your customers from scams

When you pay a supplier or service provider, are you certain you’re paying the right account? You’ve got to be super careful these days, as scammers are compromising inboxes and requesting payments to a new account. Here’s how to protect your business and its customers.

It’s Scams Awareness Week 2021, and over the past year scams have hit Australian businesses hard, resulting in $128 million in losses.

And as alarming as that is, one-third of people who are scammed never tell anyone, so the true numbers are probably much higher.

So what scam is catching out businesses this year?

Perhaps the most dangerous scam this year is “spoofing”, which involves scammers compromising a business’s email correspondence by imitating either your, or your customer’s, email account or website.

The scammers then email you, or your customers, requesting that payments be made to a new account for all future invoices.

The unsuspecting business or customer then makes the payment – in this example $10,000 – not realising they’ve paid the scammers. This not only costs the victim money, but disrupts business cash flow and operations too.

How to pay and receive with confidence

While spoofing is on the rise, there are some simple steps you can take to make sure your business and its customers are sending money to the correct account.

“If you have staff, talk to them about this scam to make them aware of how it works and what to look for if they are targeted,” warns small business ombudsman Bruce Billson.

Small businesses are also being encouraged to register for PayID, use BPAY, or implement e-invoicing when paying or receiving payment for invoices to help beat scammers.

That’s because these payment services will show who you’re paying before you pay, ensuring money is going to the intended account.

“PayID for example is a unique feature that will help prevent scams for individuals and businesses,” explains Australian Banking Association CEO Anna Bligh.

“Unlike paying to a BSB and account number, PayID gives the user the ability to confirm the name of the account holder before you transfer your funds.”

And the good news is that PayID is easy to register for and use.

So far, there are more than 8 million PayID’s registered across Australia, many of which are for businesses.

“As banking becomes more digitalised, no longer do customers prefer to sign a cheque or pay with cash. As a result, we all need to be more cautious about scammers and utilise services that ensure our money is being sent to the right business or individual,” Ms Bligh said.

Other steps you can take to protect your business from scammers

Other steps to protect your business from scammers are to use services such as two-step authentication where possible, and double-check the authenticity of webpage links before you click.

“These are easy and simple steps to protect yourself from these very costly and abhorrent scams,” says Alexi Boyd, Chief Executive Officer at the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia.

And last but not least, if you ever have any doubts about whether you’re making a payment to the right account, or if you receive a request to change payment account information, simply pick up the phone and speak to your contact at that organisation.