The internet allows for information to flow and spread so quickly that a single tweet or social media post can reach millions of people worldwide in milliseconds. It allows us to share ideas, stories, and generate interest in new products and services. Unfortunately, it has also allowed the spread of misinformation, fake news and enabled scammers and frauds to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. We want to show you how to avoid falling for online business scams
"Urgent Business Proposal,
We have thirty million U.S. Dollars, which we got from an over-inflated contract from crude oil.. We are seeking your assistance and permission to remit this amount into your account. Your commission is thirty percent of the money...
Prince Jones Dimka"
Have you ever received this email or one of the hundreds of similar iterations circulating the internet since the early 1990s? If you haven't, you are in the minority. The "Nigerian Prince" has contacted millions of people worldwide, and the scam (as you may have already guessed they are not actually giving away millions of dollars) is otherwise known to the FBI as the "419 Fraud" or "Nigerian Letter." This particular scheme's premise is straightforward; you receive an email with an offer for substantial sums of money. All you have to do is pay a small portion upfront or hand over your bank account information for them to transfer your millions. Of course, once they have your information, they clean you out and are never heard from again (until the prince's cousin shows up a few months later).
Although it would seem preposterous that anyone in their right mind would hand over their bank account information to perfect strangers in Africa or, worse yet, send them money, this scheme has netted the conspirators millions of dollars and given them minor celebrity status. Over the years, the emails have become more sophisticated, with improved grammar and a more credible appearance. The scammers also started targeting small businesses, and the FBI estimates that over 40,000 companies were compromised between 2013 and 2016 alone, resulting in $5.3 billion in losses. This is why it is more important than ever to learn how to avoid falling for online business scams.
Malware, phishing emails, impersonation, bait and switch, Ponzi schemes, and ransomware become more advanced each day. According to the FTC, small businesses can be especially vulnerable. To avoid falling for online scams, it is essential to train yourself and your employees to spot suspicious activity, verify all invoices and payments, enhance your business's cybersecurity, and maintain vigilance.
Finding reputable sources for information is more critical than ever. Knowing how to discern between a program or training that can elevate your business and personal life from hacks looking to pilfer your bank account is a skill that needs to be honed and developed. Most industries have resources for reputable professional development programs that have been verified and may offer continuing education credit. These programs should be the first place you look for industry-specific training. However, when you need additional training or support to improve your sales, learn advanced marketing strategies, or take a work-life balance seminar, you will have to look outside your industry.
In addition to the typical online cons, fraudulent coaching and educational programs have become more prevalent. Fake testimonials, videos, and webinars guaranteeing overnight success and exclusive offers are used to lure clients into spending thousands of dollars without providing legitimate product delivery. Finding reputable coaches can be incredibly challenging as there is no authoritative regulatory body to govern coaching and no specific educational requirements exist. However, certain certification programs offer a higher level of legitimacy and provide an extra layer of verification for consumers. Learn the steps you need to take to understand how to avoid falling for online business scams.
If you are looking for coaching certifications in the health and wellness industry, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Emory University, Duke Integrative Medicine, American Council on Exercise, Health Coach Institute and National Society of Health Coaches are good options. If you are looking for certified coaches outside the health and wellness, The International Coaching Federation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to professional coaching. Additional credentials requiring government oversight such as Nursing, Medical Boards, Accounting Boards, American BAR Association, and Financial Planning Board are also good resources.
For small business owners seeking further information, The FTC offers valuable resources and educational articles.
By: Janet Semenova
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