Scams and Spams: How to Protect Yourself & Your Business

In our current business environment, there’s a lot of opportunities to be taken advantage of. There’s a lot of spam email, spam calls, and even ways that your identity can be used against you. Let’s have a little talk about some of the top scams and spams that are out there that you need to pay attention to.

 

FRAUD

I was shocked and scared not too long ago. All of a sudden I saw a charge on a business debit card. It was rouge debit from my checking account for Crepe Erase, which is something I nor my wife would ever order. I immediately contacted the bank and said, “Hey, what’s happening?” And yes, a payment was made to a company for a particular product on a business debit card. This is one of the reasons why I pay so close attention to all of my finances.

Why would this be such a big deal? Obviously I could get that removed, but they would have access to my business checking and my lines of credit and everything else that’s tied to it. So, if I did not catch that right away, they could have drained lots of money from my business. It could have turned into a HUGE problem if I did not catch it fast enough.

Scams and Spams: How to Protect Yourself  and  Your Business

Identity Theft?

Similarly, I recently got something in the mail called a ReliaCard from US Bank. Keep in mind that I have never applied for this card or been to a US Bank ever. In researching this online, what I found out is that this may be a residual problem from the Equifax breach years ago, and somebody has a hold of my social security number. From what I can decipher, they filed an unemployment claim in my name, and this card is supposedly going to be loaded with my unemployment payments. First, I did not activate it, and luckily I caught it in time.

If they got a hold of those funds without me knowing I may have had to pay taxes on the money I never received, requested, or even needed? Now I have to go through the process of calling up the banks, waiting in a virtual line with the completely overburdened Illinois State Department of Employment Security, and making sure that they’re aware that I did not file the claim. I’m going to have to spend countless wasted hours of time trying to fix a problem that I did not create.

Spam or Scam?

SO let’s examine a handful of other things that we all have to fight off. These are common scams that I see all the time. I am sure you may get these too, but just in case you have not been hit up yet I thought it would be a good idea to go through some of them. I will also follow it up with a checklist of some things you could be doing to help thwart these problems.

 

The Debit Card

As I said, the debit card issue is huge and I have learned a big lesson. Here’s my advice, which actually comes from a financial professional (my wife who works at a bank). If you have business checking accounts, do not get a debit card associated with it. It tends to be the most easily compromised type of card out there. No matter how careful you are while using it (I only used it to get cash from an ATM). you need to protect yourself and your business. I strongly suggest that you don’t get a debit card associated with your business accounts. I’ve also canceled all of them for my personal accounts for the same reason (yes my personal one was hacked years earlier).

It’s ‘Fragile’

The other one that I get all the time are these, “You’ve just won an award, the best of Aurora, Illinois Marketing Company.” Those are scams as well. Those are from predatory companies that tell you you’ve won something, but then want to charge you $ 250 to get a cheap little trophy, plaque, or whatever. Those are scams to try to make you feel like you’re a winner, but you end up being a financial loser!

I also get spammy emails from Who’s Who. “You are the Who’s Who in Marketing.” Well, again, it’s another one of those scams where they want you to pay money to get yourself into a book. And here’s the bottom line, who cares? Nobody reads them, nobody’s going to buy them. They may claim it will be sent to influencers or may go to a library. Who will that impress other than your pets?

Pay Now?

The next one that happens all the time is fake bills. I get these both via email and also in the regular mail. They look and smell like REAL bills that say, “Your domain is coming up due and you need to pay $ 59.95 to make sure it does not get away from you.” Well, those are fake. You need to make sure that you understand where your domains are registered and when they are due. I often see fake bills come in for web hosting, web domains, and other things like SSL certificates and SEO all the time. You want to make sure that you’re aware of exactly where your domains are listed, who you’re paying, and how often.

You’ve Subscribed?

Scams and Spams: How to Protect Yourself  and  Your Business

Another self-initiated problem that I run into is the subscription. I’m not going to necessarily call it a scam because you may need to actually subscribe to plug-ins, software, and other online services. But here’s something that happened to me.

I bought a plugin last year to help improve a process on one of my websites. I thought I just bought the plugin for one year. What they did is they automatically subscribed me to an annual agreement. When that agreement came up at the year’s time, I noticed they charged me $ 77 for another year.

I emailed the company and said, “Hey, I never wanted to subscribe and I want a refund. I don’t want this.” It did not work. They never responded back. Luckily, I paid with PayPal. So I went to PayPal and said, “Hey, I did not want this. I sent them an email saying, I wanted a refund.” They researched it and came back and said, “Nope, sorry, legit. Your money’s gone.”

You have to be careful when you’re signing up for things to make sure that they are not going to automatically renew. It’s a lot different, let’s say, if you have HBO Max or something like that charges every month. It’s easier to cancel, but those annual ones can sneak right by you.

Take Action

So here’s my list of things that I think can help you not get taken advantage of, or at least not find yourself paying unforeseen bills.

  1. First, create a spreadsheet of everything you subscribe to. Write down the date that you started and the date the next payment is due. And keep that up to date, especially if it’s something that’s going to renew annually because it’s so easy to forget. I have tons of those. I have an annual subscription to Amazon Prime, one to Vimeo, and ones for my web hosting. Those are legit, but it’s always good to know when those payments are coming up.
  2. Next, put those dates on your calendar. Give yourself a week reminder before the next payment is due. That way you at least know that you’re going to have enough money in whatever credit card or financial account is going to pay that.You also want to make sure that you list on that spreadsheet where it’s being paid from. What happens if you really do have hosting, and your credit card got compromised and it’s no longer active? There is a chance you could lose your web hosting or your domain names. When those things go away, it can cost you hundreds, even thousands of dollars to get those back. (IF you can EVER get them back?)
  3. The final thing I’m going to suggest to you is to research everything. Google is your friend. See what’s out there and add the word “scam” to the search just to be sure. When that US Bankcard showed up, the first thing I did was go onto Google and say, “I got a US Bank card in the mail. Why?” Then I was able to see what was happening.
    A: It was from the government.
    B: It was tied to the unemployment.
    C: I started to check out where I needed to call to take action on this. If you don’t, it can have very negative effects on your business, on your finances, and worse.

Final Thoughts

That, my friends, is my cautionary tale. Make sure that you don’t fall for any of these scams. If you subscribe to things, make sure that you’re keeping track of them. Put them in a calendar, on a spreadsheet, and stay on top of it before it takes advantage of you and your business. Don’t get scammed.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas, or questions about scams and spams. Are these tips making your business better? What worked and what did not live up to your expectations? Do you have any ideas or advice you could share?

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Author: Brian Basilico

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