Business as usual isn’t what it used to be. Small and mid-sized businesses are utilizing internet-based technologies like online banking, IT managed services and software delivery through the cloud now more than ever. Switching to services like these can cut costs, improve security measures and increase operational efficiency, but business owners beware: the information you access online could put your business at risk for e-fraud.
E-fraud tends to hit small and mid-sized businesses the hardest. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, companies with fewer than 1,000 employees can lose an average of $150,000 per fraud case. Preventing fraud, however, isn’t rocket science. Setting forth a few simple safeguards can go a long way toward helping you avoid the painful costs of e-fraud for your business.
Consider these five tips to keep your business safe:
1) Enlist checks and balances—One of the most common types of fraud facing small and mid-sized businesses is check tampering. If you bank online, reconcile your account activity at least once a day to ensure there are no unexpected or suspicious charges to your business account. Don’t rely on your automatic bill pay to do your accounting, and select services that allow you to review, validate and confirm your payments before they are sent. If you give your employees access to bank accounts, it’s worth your time and money to invest in background checks—and let potential new hires know that you plan on running checks, too.
2) Set up secondary payment approvals—If you aren’t solely in charge of your accounting, give at least two employees access to monitor online accounts. Secondary payment approvals can provide stronger internal controls that can be effective at protecting a business from unauthorized payments. Plus, having a second set of eyes on your accounts can go a long way to preventing wayward employees from committing fraud.
3) Fortify your antivirus applications—Installing and updating antivirus applications on your business’ network can help you catch most viruses before they replicate and cause problems. Without antivirus software, your office computers are at risk from a variety of sources—some of which include applications like key logging, where remote users can track keystrokes on an infected computer to learn your business’ passwords or user IDs.
4) Dedicate computers for online banking—The measure may seem extreme, but having an exclusive online banking computer that isn’t used for email, web browsing or any other online activity can dramatically decrease the risk of e-fraud.
5) Open email selectively—Think before you open any email. Malware and viruses can sneak in via attachments or official-looking bank logos, so use your intuition. If you aren’t expecting an attachment or correspondence, don’t open it without contacting the sender first. Be especially cautious after natural disasters or international crises, as cyber criminals will entice you to enter your account information on false donation sites or trick you into opening email attachments that run malware—you may not know you’re infected until the virus has replicated and sent itself to your email contact list.
No measure is 100-percent effective and common sense is your best ally. If something seems suspicious, give it a second look before you click.