More than half of small businesses (62%) have experienced a cyber security incident, according to a recent survey from the Australian Cyber Security Centre. This amounts to an estimated loss to businesses of $300 million annually.

Be Aware and Prepare: A Guide to Australian Business Scams

December 2, 2023

More than half of small businesses (62%) have experienced a cyber security incident, according to a recent survey from the Australian Cyber Security Centre. This amounts to an estimated loss to businesses of $300 million annually.

To ensure business continuity and safeguard operations, business owners should always seek to remain informed of the most prevalent scams. This includes how to recognise them and take preventive action, and staying up to date with the constantly evolving techniques used by cyber criminals.

Types of scams targeting Australian businesses

  1. Overpayment scamsIf a customer contacts you to say they have inadvertently overpaid an invoice, their request for a refund of the amount overpaid may seem plausible. But wait for their payment to clear before you make that reimbursement.This is a common trick used by scammers, who are hoping that you will send them the excess amount before you realise that they paid you with a dud cheque or credit card.
  2. Fraudulent invoicesIn this case the scammer sends an invoice for goods or services you haven’t ordered, or for which they are not your regular supplier. Some examples may include a scammer billing you for a directory listing or to renew your website domain name. What the scammer hopes is that their invoice will slip under the radar of your purchase approval system and be paid before you realise it’s false.To spot a fraudulent invoice, scrutinise any bills for items not ordered or services not rendered, especially from unfamiliar entities, and verify any unexpected charges with your regular suppliers before processing payment.
  3. PhishingMost people in Australia are by now familiar with the type of phishing phone call, email or text message from someone claiming to be from a bank, credit card company or computer security organisation, requesting verification details or claiming to have found an error or fault needing your attention.However, a surprising number of people still part with their bank account details, credit card numbers and passwords, or grant online access to their computers. It’s important to be sceptical of unsolicited communications that press for immediate action, personal information, or access to your devices, often accompanied by threats or alarming messages.
  4. Investment proposalsThese investment schemes usually involve a cold call from someone claiming to be a stockbroker or financial adviser, spruiking an investment plan with elevated rapid returns. You are invited to hand over money and quickly recover more than you invested.It’s most likely that the call comes from overseas, that the caller has no Australian Financial Services (AFS) licence, and that the ‘investment’ is worthless. Be wary of unsolicited contact promising high returns with little risk, and always verify the caller’s licensing with relevant financial authorities, such as the ASIC.

How to recognise scams

Watch out for these red flags which may indicate an attempted scam:

  • Emails or text from unverified sources, with links or attachments you’re asked to click.
  • A sudden money request from someone you don’t know.
  • A strange communication from someone you do know as their email or social media account could have been hacked.
  • Pressure to do something in a hurry before it’s too late.
  • An unusual payment method, e.g. cryptocurrency, iTunes cards, preloaded debit cards.
  • A call claiming to be from your bank, asking you to set up a new account or PayID.
  • An offer which seems to be too good to be true. It probably is.

Prevention strategies

In addition to common sense strategies, like not handing over personal information to unverified sources and not clicking on links they provide, there are other steps you can take to prevent scams:

  • Bank account and credit card protection – Check accounts daily for suspicious activity. Use multi-factor authentication. Keep your credit card details safe. Only hand out credit cards to trusted employees. Conduct background checks for new hires.
  • Secure IT practices – Install a firewall and use anti-virus and malware software. Install updates promptly. Ensure staff have complex and varying passwords that are changed regularly.
  • Employee education – Train your staff on how to handle sensitive business information and detect scams and other security threats.

Stay up to date with scam trends

Two valuable sources of information about cyber criminals’ latest tricks are the Australian Signals Directorate Alert Service and the federal government’s Scamwatch.

As always, your broker is on hand to help should you require finance for your anti-scam and security initiatives.

This information is for general information purposes only. The information contained herein does not constitute financial or professional advice or a recommendation. It has not been prepared with reference to your financial circumstances or business and should not be relied on as such. You should seek your own independent financial, legal and taxation advice as to whether or not this information is appropriate for you.

Get in contact with us

For personalised service, the very best financial products and exceptional customer service where you really matter, look no further than the professional team at Mainland Finance

Contact Us

Follow Us Online