November 15, 2022

How Your Business Can Avoid Phone Imposter Scams

How Your Business Can Avoid Phone Imposter Scams

Scam and spam calls have become a routine part of life, but that doesn’t mean we should sit back and allow the onslaught to continue. In fact, the overwhelming presence of fraudulent, unwanted calls and text messages in our daily lives should motivate us to push back harder and take extra steps to protect ourselves, our families, and our businesses.

Since scammers have realized how lucrative their cons can be, there’s little hope of stopping the problem by playing nice. The good news is, there are ways to dismantle scams and prevent them from reaching you in the first place. Read ahead to find out what you need to know about phone imposter scams and how you and your team can avoid them.

What are imposter scams?

As the name implies, imposter scams occur when bad actors pretend to be another person or entity in order to fraudulently obtain personal information, money, or other valuable assets. These scams can make use of a variety of mediums including phone calls, text messages, and emails, and they are as prolific as they are dangerous; in 2021 alone, phone scams cost Americans approximately $40 billion according to our estimates.

Imposters may pose as the IRS or another government entity, banks and other financial institutions, student loan providers, or even employers. They may mimic delivery services, sweepstakes, or charities. And, of course, they’ll likely call you about your expiring car warranty.

While the average consumer is a potential target for any of these scams, businesses fit a slightly narrower profile — fraudsters can’t call a business number and try to offer someone a better deal on their student loans. However, there’s no shortage of imposter scams they might deploy. And, although different techniques may be needed to scam a business, a successful con can be exponentially more profitable for the scammer.

How imposter scams affect businesses

At the very least, spam calls and texts are a distraction. They take employees’ attention away from their work and focus it on nonsense, wasting precious time that could be spent brewing up the next big idea. In many cases, however, scams can create serious issues that threaten your business from the inside out.

Scammers do their best to swindle sensitive information like passwords, social security numbers, and bank account numbers from companies of all sizes. Once they get ahold of the data, credentials, or other information they’re looking for, they can use it to turn a profit. Some sell the information they’ve stolen, while others aim to gain access to corporate accounts and steal directly from the business.

Although scammers use different premises to target companies and consumers, the same red flags may appear. The better you are at spotting them, the easier it will be to shut down the scammers and escape the situation unscathed.

How to spot an imposter scam

Some imposter scams are easy to catch, but others do a better job of reeling you in before you notice anything fishy. If you and your employees know what to look for, your company should be well-prepared to turn scammers away quickly, before they can get away with anything valuable. Ensure that everyone on your team keeps an eye out for the following warning signs.

Unorthodox payment methods

When scammers ask for money directly, they tend to be particular about the form of payment. This is because they want to remain untraceable. If someone asks for payment in the form of gift cards or prepaid debit cards, they are likely trying to stick to payment methods that are difficult or impossible to track. The IRS will never call your business and request money in the form of Walmart gift cards.

A sense of urgency

Many scammers demand immediate payment, creating a sense of urgency so you don’t take the time to consider whether or not you’re being duped. They may insist that you have outstanding debt and payment is overdue, or otherwise push you to send payment now to avoid consequences like losing a business listing. In reality, the only consequences come from falling for the scam.

Threats and intimidation

In some cases, scammers couple a false sense of urgency with serious threats and intimidation. They may claim that if you don’t pay their fee, you could be facing fines or even jail time. This amplifies the urgency and forces you to consider the severe punishments that you might face if you don’t comply. Legitimate services and institutions will notify you regularly and on paper if your business owes them money.

Neighborhood spoofing

The number you see on your caller ID isn’t necessarily the number that originated the call. Some scammers use “neighborhood spoofing” to make it seem like they’re calling from local numbers, copying your area code and sometimes the first few digits of your phone number to come off as more trustworthy. There’s no need to automatically distrust all local callers, but think twice before answering a call from a number that looks suspiciously like your own.

Typos or strange characters

Sometimes catching a scammer is as easy as reading their message. If you get a text or email that uses strange characters (in the body or the sender’s address), there’s a good chance you’re dealing with an imposter.

What imposter scams businesses should know about

Knowing how to spot the warning signs of a scam is useful, but it also helps to familiarize yourself with some of the most common scams your business might encounter. 

Utility scams

If you run your business out of a brick-and-mortar building, you’ll need certain services in order to keep the lights on (literally). Some imposters may try to pose as your gas or electric company, or even your internet provider. These scams can be tricky because the fraudsters may impersonate the actual companies you pay on a monthly basis, and sometimes they might even contact you at the appropriate time in the payment cycle.

Tech support scams

In the digital age, keeping technological infrastructure up and running is critical to the success of any business. Scammers may pretend to be tech support in an attempt to obtain your login credentials or gain access to your network. Once they’re in, they may be able to steal data to sell on the black market or outright drain your business accounts.

Business listings

It’s important for customers to be able to find and reach your business, which is why directories are so useful for consumers and companies alike. Watch out for scammers who threaten to remove your business listings unless you pay a fee or provide proof of ownership; they may be able to use the business or even personal information you provide to tamper with your listings or access confidential materials. Alternatively, they may charge you to update directories that don’t even exist.

Government agencies

Imposter scammers like to impersonate government agencies because they get to assume an air of authority that makes the victim feel like they’re in a serious situation. They may claim that you owe taxes or have to renew certain licenses or registrations, banking on your belief in their power to scare you into cooperating. All government agencies have their contact information publicly listed, so hang up and call them back at a listed number if you suspect that you’re being scammed.

Fake invoices

The bigger the business, the more complicated the bookkeeping. Scammers may send phony invoices for anything from office supplies to advertising to membership dues for fake organizations, hoping an employee will fail to scrutinize the details and pay them out as if they were legitimate.

By combining what you know about the habits of scammers with these examples of the real-life scams they run, you have the knowledge you need to help keep you and your team safe. But while knowledge is power, you need to know how to use it.

Ways businesses can protect themselves from phone imposter scams

Phone imposter scams are rampant and dangerous, but that doesn’t mean you need to be afraid of them. By understanding the warning signs and being proactive in your defense plan, you can keep your business safe.

Here are a few ways you can protect your business from phone imposter scams:

  • Step up employee training. Train your employees to recognize the warning signs of imposter scams, and teach them how to handle scammers. Good communication between employees and management can help squash scams and protect the company’s assets.
  • Verify invoices and payments. The more invoices your business deals with, the easier it is for a scammer to slip in a fake one undetected. Ensure your employees verify each and every invoice for services provided and products ordered to avoid unknowingly paying a fake bill.
  • Stay on the lookout for spoofing. Without the right protection, caller IDs can be manipulated. Before you give away financial information or initiate a transaction, make sure you’re absolutely positive that you know who you’re talking to.
  • Be careful with texts and emails. Don’t open attachments, download files, or click links from unverified senders. You might unwittingly download malware onto your device just by clicking or tapping a link.
  • Update your firewall and antivirus services. If you do end up facing a malware threat, the right protective programs may help bail you out. Use reliable firewall and antivirus software and be sure to keep it up to date.
  • Clearly define ordering procedures. Make sure your employees are aware of the protocol for ordering and reordering supplies, paying for advertising, and greenlighting any other transactions your business might make. You can also increase your security and reduce the chances of being cheated by having someone sign for all deliveries.
  • Monitor your business accounts. Sometimes you don’t know you’ve been scammed until the money comes out of your account, so check your corporate accounts regularly to see if anything looks off. Ask your bank about anti-fraud services and alerts that you can use to catch suspicious activity.
  • Double-check identities. If you’re unsure who is on the other side of a call, text, or email, reach out using a number or address that you know is legitimate. Then you can verify that the person you’re talking to is in fact who they say they are. 
  • Get RoboKiller Enterprise. Protecting your business from phone imposter scams is a full-time job in itself, but a robocall mitigation program or a teamwide subscription to the award-winning RoboKiller app can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. RoboKiller Enterprise gives you the flexibility, functionality, and freedom to focus on what you do best: running your business.

Try Robokiller Enterprise

Fighting back against imposter scams takes time and effort, but you don’t have to do it alone. With the help of a robocall blocker like RoboKiller Enterprise, you can protect your business from scams and spam while focusing your energy and resources on moving your company forward. You can also stay compliant with the STIR/SHAKEN framework to help the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) combat spam and scam calls on a global level.

RoboKiller Enterprise offers 99% effective spam identification and blocking based on artificial intelligence, machine learning, and audio fingerprinting technologies. Request a demo today to experience the benefits for yourself.

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