Protect your small business

Protect yourself and your business by being aware of the common scams targeting small businesses.

How scammers con small businesses

Scams targeting small businesses come in various forms—from invoices for advertising or directory listings that were never requested to dubious office supplies that were never ordered.

Small business scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated and scammers will go to great lengths to convince you that the documents they send you or the offers they make are legitimate.

However, they can easily copy or modify letterheads, names and logos to make them look real, or set up a professional-looking but fake website. Scammers can even gain access to your supplier's email account and intercept emails without either of you realising.

Scammers recognise that small business operators are busy and have fewer resources than large businesses, so they aim to take advantage of that.

Common scams targeting small business

False billing

False billing scams request you or your business to pay fake invoices for directory listings, advertising, domain name renewals or office supplies that you did not order.

Overpayment scams

Overpayment scams work by getting you to 'refund' a scammer who has sent you a cheque for too much money for an item you are selling.

Malware & ransomware

Malware tricks you into installing software that allows scammers to access your files and track what you are doing, while ransomware demands payment to ‘unlock’ your computer or files.

Whaling & spear phishing

Whaling or spear phishing scams target businesses or organisations in an attempt to get confidential information for fraudulent purposes.

Online shopping scams

Online shopping scams involve scammers pretending to be legitimate online sellers, either with a fake website or a fake ad on a genuine retailer site.

Investment schemes

Investment schemes involve getting you or your business to part with money on the promise of a questionable financial opportunity.

Protect yourself

  • Limit how many people have authority to buy or order something for your business.
  • Keep your filing and accounting systems well organised—this will make it easier for you to detect bogus accounts and invoices. Double check every request for payment.

  • If you notice a supplier’s usual bank account details have changed, call them to confirm.

  • Keep your office networks , computers, and mobile devices secure. Update your security software, change passwords and back up your data regularly. Store your backups offsite and offline. Stay Smart Online explains how to back-up your data.

  • Don't let tactics like bullying, negotiations for a lower price, or charges for unordered or unused goods affect your decision.
  • If you think a request is suspicious, independently check business details and do a search online.

Real life story

Small business scams and cybercrime forum

The ACCC and the Institute of Public Accountants hosted a small business scams and cybercrime forum in May 2015.

The aim of the forum was to help small business operators and stakeholders understand the scam and cybercrime risks small businesses face and how they can protect themselves. The event featured three expert speakers and a question-and-answer panel discussion.

Have you been scammed?

If you become aware of a scam, or you've been scammed, let other people and your industry association know about it.

We encourage you to report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page. This helps us to warn people about current scams, monitor trends and disrupt scams where possible. Please include details of the scam contact you received, for example, email or screenshot.

We also provide guidance on where to get help.

More information

Protect yourself from scams. There are steps that everyone can take to keep safe from scams.

Online resources. Stay one step ahead of scammers by signing up for free email alerts and following us on Twitter.

Small business scams fact sheet.  A print-friendly version of some common scams targeting small businesses.

Grant related scams. Be careful of websites that offer grant related services for a fee.

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