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How can freelancers and small business owners avoid scams?

It is one of the saddest things about human beings that where there is a crisis, there is someone who has a scam to exploit that crisis. Barely had the coronavirus hit in the UK, when there were people working out ways to take other people’s hard-earned money using the disease as an excuse. From knocking on people’s doors and demanding money for illness testing to people being stopped with shopping bags and asked to pay a fine by people wearing no uniform (true story) there seems to be no depths to which scammers will not stoop.

Man-sitting-at-a-computer-in-the-dark with-word-security overhead

As business owners, we put our details out on the internet so that potential clients can contact us, but what if people do not want to hire us but to scam us instead? We should be prepared to get the police involved if there has been a successful scam on our business and we should share the stories so that others do not fall for the same thing.

Here are some scams and some ways that we can protect ourselves. 

ID Fraud

Many scams involve the stealing of ID in order to defraud banks or other organisations. Particularly be careful of potential phishing emails.

Keep your details and those of your customers safe and also keep safe and password-protected those electronic devices where they are stored.

Email Fraud

Email frauds can come in a number of different ways. Be careful of emails from HMRC that do not actually come from the right email address and ask you to click on links. Or be wary of emails from your bank, asking you to verify details by clicking on an email link. There can be emails pretending to be from Amazon or your broadband provider or mobile phone operator, all asking you to click on a link and enter bank details, either to confirm them or to “avoid fraud”.

You should always be wary of unsolicited emails. Scammers are able to copy logos, imitate the way they think an official body should communicate and make sure that the email initially looks legitimate. However, the email link is not usually an official one and will look quite different to the correct email address. If in doubt, then ring the institution in question and check it out.

Scam Phone calls

Scam phone calls can happen in a number of ways. This can involve people pretending to be from your bank, from HMRC or from a computer company which says it needs to check your computer remotely. They may be looking to get your bank details or access to your computer. They can also make it look like the phone call is a genuine number.

Do not give any details out over the phone and end the call. If you decide to call your provider, then be aware that some fraudsters can delay hanging up the phone and pretend to be the person you are calling. Wait for at least 20 minutes before trying to call a number after receiving a suspicious phone call. You can also reject cold calls and put strange phone numbers through a search engine which could tell you which company they belong to. You can block numbers that try to call regularly. Don’t respond to unrecognised missed calls or texts and you can also check a company’s phone number by calling from a different phone. Don’t take a caller’s word for it that they are who they say they are.

Invoice Fraud

A business needs to check every detail these days, as scammers can send fake invoices that seem legitimate. The invoice may appear to come from a genuine supplier, but the details send the payment straight to the scammers. It’s known as APP or authorised push payments which persuade companies to pay a seemingly normal invoice but which has not been sent by the right person. There have been situations where the bank has queried the transaction, but the person paying has been so sure that it was right, that they insisted on paying. Then they found it was a scam.

The answer to this one is well-trained staff who know to check with the supplier before paying. The fraudsters hope that the invoice will be paid with no questions asked, but if your staff are able to check out the validity of invoices, then only the right invoices are paid.

Royal Mail Scam

This can consist of an email suggesting that a parcel is being held for you and that you need to rearrange delivery. Filling in details means that the scammers may install ransomware where your work computers will shut down and you will need to pay money to get them released. There can also be a card through the door where you ring a number which is charged at an extremely expensive rate. There have been some high-profile instances of ransomware where the company paid to get their computers back. Once a computer is locked out it can be very difficult to get back.

For the first scam, you need to back up your computers regularly to make sure that you can access an up-to-date storage if needed. You may need to bring in the Police to get this checked out.

For the second, if you are not expecting a parcel, then check it is real. You can normally pick up a parcel from your local Post Office sorting centre with ID and the card that was posted through your door.

Do you have any good advice on how to avoid scams? Please share below.

Metropolitan Police advice on business fraud

National Crime Agency on fraud

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2 thoughts on “How can freelancers and small business owners avoid scams?”

  1. It’s horrible isn’t it. Mum said that where she lives people were knocking on doors with some bogus thing.

    I told her to cough and pretend she was I’ll.

    I truly don’t get this behaviour.

  2. Hi Dale,
    I would agree. I don’t understand why people have to be so horrible to others. And I really don’t understand the mentality where people want to scam others out of their hard-earned cash. Thank you for commenting x

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