I recall an important lesson learned during my first trip around Europe when my naivety and youth “cup runneth over”. Literally. A friend and I settled into a cafe with our tattered backpacks. We scraped the last country appropriate coin from our pockets, having just enough for a, as in one, pastry and some coffee. We grew up with the-glorious-never-ending-cup-of-coffee policy of East Coast diners. We devoured the single pastry like cartoon characters and relished in the attentive hospitality. The staff expediently asked if we’d like more of the bewitching dark brew. If I recall correctly we had (5) cups each. If I recall correctly, I was the one sent out to figure out a way to get money to pay for each and every cup. Lesson learned- always ask “How much?” first, and for everything.
Fast forward into adult life and the etiquette of sales. I now know “Coffee is for closers.”, but the Always Be Closing mantra presents a focus that wrestles attention away from other fronts. Concentrating on the lure of booking new client revenue makes the bells, whistles, and red flashing lights in the background less of a priority.
A global economy is active in our daily lives, from outsourced call centers to virtual colleagues 8 hours ahead or behind. Certain nuances call for a cultural competency, while others are others are what they appear to be. Enter criminal intent. Part of the acute responsibility of a business owner is the ability to detect and manage fraud.
In an ever changing world of technology, there is a rapid pace of scams that supersedes mainstream awareness. How often we hear of the elderly being cheated? Many kids unknowingly rack up hundreds of dollars in cyber purchases that their parents are obligated to pay. Most law abiding citizens learn of the latest deviant schemes after they make headlines or posts. The frauds refined for it’s audience. A click on an iPad to seemingly shut an annoying ad is actually charging the credit card associated with the user’s account. An authentic looking letterhead in print or online, coupled with a seemingly legitimate email or phone number, will have senior citizens sharing sensitive information about their social security, taxes or bank account.
The vulnerable soft spot for entrepreneur is the need for a stream of revenue. Without an IT staff or a Fraud Department, how does small business mitigate risk, and not lose authentic opportunity? Business owners must use every resource to protect themselves. All employees need to be aware, educated and actionable. The internal dialogue of “How much (could this cost me)?” should be considered alongside your analyses of mileage, wait time, tolls and other line items that impact profit.
Here are some suggestions for navigating the minefield of scams:
Since the internet became the business transaction highway, it has become very easy to take a legitimate company name and slap it into a random domain. Ex: ToysRUs@mail.com, IRSwarning@officialgov.com, JPMorgan@oldaccounts.us These emails that might be enough to be taken seriously. To protect your digital storefront, companies should proactively reserve as many iterations of your company name as possible. Ideally, this should incorporate various domains- .net, .tv, .info, and .us too. If you do business overseas, include foreign domain options.
In 2012 Katherine Bindley wrote in the WSJ, “The recent revelations of exposed Google+ data and compromised Facebook security serve as stark reminders that many of us have a long digital trail of information out there, often in accounts we’ve either completely forgotten about, don’t use much anymore—or didn’t even know existed.” Make sure your digital profiles and platforms are airtight and not an open venue for hacking and identity fraud. Part of a smart budget should finance a continual and deep search for your identity, and confirmation that you are the only “storefront” for your company.
Facebook, LinkedIn and Youtube offer free classes on tech and also on fraud. Make the time to educate yourself, invest in an employee to take this lead role, or hire someone who is educated.
The $10k trigger. Credit card companies are doing everything they can to crack down on fraud, but a trend for criminals is to charge just under $10,000.00. For a card holder with a large spend history, this may be part of a normal pattern. If a prospect seems questionable, test the waters and bring the amount due over this threshold. It won’t eliminate fraud, but it might reveal an illicit attempt.
Apple conducts free classes in their stores to learn about the features of your devices. Attend and learn. Know how your information is shared. With RFID and Beacon technology, a click on a seemingly meaningless pop up can lead to major complications.
In 2012, Jim Luff of LCT Mag wrote about TTY relay services. In today’s technology scammers can replicate your phone number and contact clients and your bank. Make sure you are password protected for accounts, and that your standard process with clients is in place. This makes on-the-fly financial transactions inconsistent for doing business with your company and will protect you and your clients. Ex: Your phone number calls Nabisco and your “new” CSR tells the event planner that your company failed to secure the balance for your buses. You aren’t charging them, but it’s standard to ensure the funds are available. Your “new” rep requires the cc information from the client again. Chances are you will lose this client by showing your inability to manage fraud.
If your Chamber of Commerce is worth it’s weight in stolen credit cards, they will have specialists in this field and local authorities sharing on the latest scams impacting the community.
AAA is a valuable investment on a personal level. A corporation can benefit from their resources as well. They are well versed in international scams and they provide a great deal of information relevant to certain parts of the world.
Networking events and industry shows should be a resource for information on this subject. If they aren’t, use your influence to have them create a forum for sharing the latest attempts being felt within your industry and community.
Do you Square, not the dance? Pay Quick, and not be chased? Or be a Pal and pay? If this is nonsensical to you, then you are not aware of legitimate methods of payment that clients are using with suppliers and vendors. Be proactive to assess how, if at all, these will fit into your business practices. More importantly, how to protect against fraud with each of them.
Business owners need to learn faster, and the amount of “latest technology” might seem overwhelming at times. Driving profit may be your overall goal, but how much it will cost your company must be considered with every transaction. It might seem tempting to take the $9,6000.00 charge from a prospects credit card for their $3000. reservation. How much work would it be to get a cashier’s check to their translator that is coordinating their event in your area? The carrot dangles lower when the prospect notes this will be a bi-monthly booking. Don’t be a digital donkey in this type of money laundering scam. Educate yourself and your staff. Technology will continue to morph at an increasingly rapid pace, but the age old saying of “If it seems too good to be true, it is.” stand timeless.