Op-Ed: Avoid holiday scams, protect consumer trust and your bottom line
‘Tis the season to be jolly and keep a watchful eye out for costly cons! With the holidays nearing, millions of Americans will be out shopping for their family, friends and loved ones. It is estimated that Americans will spend more than $1.1 trillion this holiday season — an increase of 4% or $1,047.83, when compared to last year.
Small businesses and consumers alike can be targets for scammers’ big payday during this critical time of the year. Neither are immune from scamming threats that cause harm to our local, regional and national economies.
In response, the U.S. Small Business Administration strongly reminds entrepreneurs and consumers to be aware of holiday scams and malicious cyber-attacks that take a toll on the bottom line. Scams not only can affect business or personal finances, but also may break a venture’s consumer trust, especially if protected customer information is stolen leaving them open to a personal financial loss.
Criminals have even tried to pull fast ones using government SBA agency programs as bait. Let me be clear: the SBA does not offer grants to small business owners.
Additionally, help from a specific business will not increase your chances of getting government contracts. Furthermore, you do not have to pay to register in System for Award Management. If someone is stating differently, get their contact information and call law enforcement right away — it is a scam.
It’s important for small business owners, entrepreneurs and consumers to remain vigilant and alert during the holiday season. Don’t let your ambition for higher sales volume or discounts, both representing seemingly great seasonal opportunities, blind you to common holiday season scams. The best rule of thumb for peace of mind this season is “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
The three top small business scams that often-hit small businesses are bank and credit card scams, directory listing scams and fake check scams. The bank and credit card imposter scams are the riskiest scams based on factors of exposure, susceptibility and monetary loss. Under the guise of verifying account information, scammers fool their targets into sharing credit card or banking information.
Holiday phishing cons, where you are unsolicited asked via e-mail to click on a link to track a package, see a message from a purported government, or receive some type of vague “holiday” information can leave your computer susceptible to malicious viruses or malware. The Better Business Bureau provides a smart “Top 5 Tips to Avoid Delivery Scams and Package Thefts during the Holiday Season” that you should familiarize yourself with.
A proactive step small business owners can take is sharing best practices with their own employees to ensure their business avoids snarling customers in a holiday scam.
Your employees may not always know the best ways to protect business information or if their actions are putting your business, and its reputation, at risk. And, of course, it goes without saying that you should always back up all your data and have access to it, so you do not fall prey to a crippling cyber-attack.
Nobody wants to be a victim of a holiday scam or cyber-attack. In this season of giving, don’t take the bait. Win the holidays by avoiding holiday scams and brushing up on these tips before it is too late.