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Businesses warned to beware of scammers

By Staff | Aug 13, 2021

Internet scammers are becoming savvier by the day, but there are still ways for people and business owners to combat them. You just have to search for the clues.

That is what a detective with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office told local business owners at a recent Lunch and Learn for the North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce at Magnolia Landing.

Kim Swanson, who specializes in online fraud, said scammers are going after the small businesses in particular, since larger businesses have the defense capabilities to kick out questionable and fraudulent emails.

“Small business owners tell me they aren’t looking at small business but for the big fish. They are going after small business because they don’t think big businesses will fall for it and that small businesses don’t have the training or secured computers like bigger companies,” Swanson said.

Swanson discussed the most widely used scams, such as Business E-Mail Compromise Fraud, where phishers target those who pay the bills at small businesses, which has resulted in more losses than any other type of fraud in the country, according to the FBI.

“Businesses lost $1.6 billion to BEC, which is 64 times more than ransomware. Criminals are stealing identities to open bank accounts and fooling employees into transferring funds,” Swanson said. “They convert it to cryptocurrency.”

These scammers will usually call toward the end of the week or before a holiday, when defenses are lowered. Swanson warned businesses to call their banking institutions as soon as the fraud is discovered and request a reversal before it gets to whatever country it’s set to go to. Also, contact the FBI.

Other main scams include phony invoices, directory scams, stolen identity, charity pitches, phishing scams, office supply scams, coupon books, vanity award and overpayment scams.

Swanson said the best thing companies can do is train employees regularly, since nobody is perfect and workers can get complacent.

“Every year, you should refresh employees on some of the things to look for in a scam,” Swanson said.

Swanson said there are ways to look out for scam e-mails. Sometimes it just takes a moment to read it and see what they are saying and how they are saying it.

Swanson provided an exercise for business leaders, splitting them into groups and handing them a couple e-mails to find the clues and red flags for a fraudulent email.

Among the things people saw were awkwardly-worded sentences, or the use of a foreign company from Sweden, where the email came from Cambodia, or the use of phrases like “National Security Department.”

Swanson advised small business owners to keep good records, be careful with payment procedures, avoid some payment methods, doublecheck your vendors, be careful about the info you share and protect your devices.