Personal Finance Scams - How to Protect your Business
Explainers

Personal Finance Scams – How to Protect your Business

Last week we wrote about the unprecedented rise in personal finance scams and how an increasing number of people are losing money to this type of fraud.

These scams can substantially impact businesses and the industry as a whole; in this article, we will be discussing how you can protect your business and stay one step ahead of these scammers.

Common Types of Scams

Fraudsters go to enormous lengths when trying to trick consumers. Many of these methods involve impersonating a legitimate company, which can have a detrimental effect on the business. Companies affected by these types of scams can experience a lack of trust from consumers, a tarnished reputation and loss of business.

Some of the most common types of scams are:

  • ‘Clone Firm” Investment Scams: which saw consumers lose £78m last year. Clone firms are imitations of legitimate businesses set up by criminals in order to trick consumers into parting with their money; they often use the names, addresses and Firm Reference Numbers (FRNs) of real businesses authorised by the FCA. In doing so, they are able to convince consumers that their offers are legitimate.
  • Cloning Websites: It is also a known tactic for fraudsters to create identical copies of legitimate business websites and then use paid search ads as a way of enticing consumers in; many users would not be able to spot the difference, and therefore believe they are on the real website.
  • Spoofing: Most consumers know now that following a link from an unknown source is dangerous; however, it is easier for these scammers to pose as legitimate companies. Spoofing is where a scammer can disguise an email address, phone number or website address to appear like those of a real business, which can trick even the savviest of users.

How to Protect your Business and your Customers

Whilst there is no concrete way in which you can stop your business from being used in these types of scams, there are a number of ways in which you can make it harder for scammers, and techniques that can alert you when your name or content is being used.

Step 1: Check for Imitations of your Website

When fraudsters copy a website, they also tend to copy its content; using tools like Copyscape allows you to see if anyone is copying your content; they also have a paid automatic plagiarism checker. With this tool, you will be able to see if anyone has copied your content, allowing you to spot imitations of your website.

Step 2: Keep your Communication Clear and Consistent

Communication is also a critical step in protecting your customers, including information on your website about how you will contact them, what information you will and will not ask for will help your users know when something is amiss. Additionally, if you fear your brand is being targeted, communicate this with your consumers to reassure them and inform them about what to look out for.

It is also essential to keep both your visual and written communication consistent; this will give customers the ability to spot if something is off with logos, colours or tone of voice. This is often a key indicator of an imposter.

Step 3: Monitor what Users are Saying about your Brand

Brand monitoring is one of the most important steps you can take as a business, not only is it useful as an indicator of consumers overall opinion of your brand, it is also a way of monitoring if there are any negative views about your business that could be caused by imposters. Complaints are not necessarily uncommon, but lots of negative talk about your company could point to someone using your name to scam people. There are many brand monitoring tools available, which can be used to detect if your business name is being used for malicious activity. You can also run a simple Twitter search for your brand to see consumers opinion about your brand.

A simple Google search is also an excellent way to find any copies of your website, if a scammer is using your name, you may find them through organic search, and even more likely, they will be using paid search to coax users in. So if they are using your brand as a keyword, a Google search is an excellent place to start. You can also set up Google Alerts for web pages mentioning your company; this will alert you by email if any new pages crop up.

There are also tools available to monitor if anyone is using your brand name as a keyword on Google, whilst most of these will be competitors, keeping an eye out for anything suspicious is a good idea. Facebook Ad Library also allows you to look for ads run using your company name or similar.

Step 4: Implement Better Security

Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) is a protocol that determines the authenticity of an email. It can be used to protect a company’s email domain from being used for email spoofing or other cybercrimes. This is an extremely useful tool in combatting the malicious use of your email domain, you can read more about DMARC here.

Having strong passwords for your brand’s social media accounts may seem obvious, but it is crucial. You should also keep a list of everyone who has access to logins. LastPass is a great tool that keeps your passwords safe and allows you to give access to logins without sharing passwords.