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Op-Ed: ‘Tis the season for online scammers

As small businesses in the region pivot to do more business online to be more competitive, and reach a broader market so do the scammers who use the holiday season to be The Grinch.  

These Master Scammers were responsible for creating $2.4 billion dollars in losses in 2021 from $960 billion being exchanged in online sales. This year, it is expected that online sales will surpass $1 trillion, so the losses inevitably will also increase.

With direct action on your part, you can protect your online business from fraud, but you need to act now because small businesses are their favorite target because they expect you to lack the security infrastructure that larger businesses routinely invest in.  

In fact, 88% of small businesses surveyed believe that their businesses are currently vulnerable to cyberattack.

While this is not a definitive list on what you can do to prevent cyberattacks, these suggestions offer simple and cost-effective ways to make it that much harder for online predators to steal from you and adversely impact our local and national economy.

Author Marlene Cintron is the SBA’s Region II Administrator, overseeing agency programs, offices, and operations in the SBA’s Atlantic region, serving New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. She was born in the Bronx, to Puerto Rican parents.

  1. Update your system’s software. Software suppliers are constantly providing updates or patches to software you use to prevent against the latest type of cyber threats. The cheapest and easiest way to prevent online attacks this holiday season is to update your computer systems on a regular basis. Each update is protecting you from the most recent threats to your system, so accept them all.
  2. Review your online security protocols. This year, online sales will be at their highest level in history. It is critical to ensure your website is secure by getting trust marked with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate. An SSL certificate is a digital certificate that authenticates a website’s identity and enables an encrypted connection.  Verify that your e-commerce platform has multiple layers of security in place, and that you are not storing credit card data.
  3. Create effective passwords that cannot be hacked. The use of weak passwords is one of the major reasons why small retailers are so prone to cyberattacks. Always ensure that your employees are using unique passwords with at least 12 characters – a mix of numbers, letters, capital letters, and punctuation. Employ Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) which provides a layered approach to securing data and applications, where a system requires a user to present a combination of two or more credentials to verify a user’s identity for login.
  4. Be aware of social engineering threats. Hackers love to bait or trick employees into giving up sensitive personal or company information. Social engineering techniques include phishing scams, baiting, scareware, and incentives. Hackers can review both your personal and company social media profiles then create emails, phone calls, and text messages that appear to be coming from a customer, vendor, or someone familiar to gain access to sensitive information.
  5. Enforce strict rules on how your computer systems will be used. It is critical to provide effective training to all employees that will access your computer systems. Make sure employees only have access to data and tasks deemed necessary to their job function and role.  You may be hiring multiple seasonal employees over the next few months and controlling how they interface with your online systems is a critical management function.

The holiday shopping season is a critical time for most small retailers — especially those with a robust online presence. Keeping your online systems safe will not only benefit your customers, but also your bottom line. We want you to have a very profitable Holiday Season and have your customers feel that their financial information is also being protected by doing business with you. 

That will ensure that they will return time and again as a trusted business.  Happy Holidays!

Author Details
Author Details
This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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