How To Protect Your Business As You Grow

Markéta Fiala

You've poured your heart and soul into building your business. The late nights, endless paperwork and dedication is finally starting to pay off, and you may even be thinking about expanding your business internationally. However, as you prepare to take this significant step, there are a number of things to be aware of. Two of these are scams and fraudsters hoping to benefit from your success. They come in many shapes and sizes, including deceptive emails or imitation schemes. It doesn't matter whether you're a freelancer, an international e-commerce business or local consulting firm - nobody is too small to be targeted.

At Wise, we've implemented 2-step verification as another layer of security for your business account, to confirm it's really you. The first step is entering your password, while the second step is to enter a code you receive by text message, phone call or your separate authenticator app. You'll also receive notifications about your transfers and balances, so you always know where your money is. Every time you spend with your business card, you get instant notifications on your device.

In this article:

Business scams when expanding overseas

Expanding your business abroad offers exciting opportunities, but it also exposes you to potential scams. Educating yourself about local customs and practices, verifying the legitimacy of financial institutions, and maintaining awareness during financial transactions will significantly mitigate the risks associated with fraudulent activities and safeguard the success of your business expansion. For instance, some countries may have specific invoicing methods or prefer cash payments to suppliers. Lastly, understanding the local language or hiring a local representative who can assist with communication and paperwork is important, so you always know why and what you're signing up for.

Why is this more crucial than ever?

Protecting your small business against scams has become more critical than ever. In the UK, National Crime Agency notes that businesses are more targeted than individuals due to the larger financial transactions they carry out and the bigger potential profits for scammers. If you lose valuable data or customers' money, it could also damage your hard-earned reputation, and even result in fines

Scammers have unfortunately been very successful. In fact, the UK Finance Annual Fraud Report reveals that over £1.2 billion was stolen through fraud in 2022 (through both business and personal scams). And this number is likely even higher, as the National Crime Agency estimates 86% of scams and frauds are not accounted for.

But here's the silver lining: whether you're expanding internationally or focusing domestically at the moment, there are ways to protect your business. Let's ensure your business stays secure, no matter where you are in the world.

Before we talk about some common warning signs, there are some scammers trying to pretend to be Wise as well. We're aware of this but can't always stop it from happening. That is why we've written a blog about information we'll never ask you for.

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Red flags to watch out for

Unusual email requests: your business is likely to receive thousands of emails every day, but not every spam email ends in the spam folder. Scammers often impersonate legitimate organisations or even government bodies. If there's an email that seems out of ordinary, look out for the email address, the body of the email, and don't click on any links. Don't download any folders or install them to your computers either. This could result in your device being controlled remotely.

To verify if an email is from Wise, you can also set up a Secure communication code. It will help you to tell if the emails you receive are from Wise or are phishing attempts from fraudsters. Once you’ve set your communication code, it will be included in all genuine Wise emails.

Unsolicited calls: if someone calls claiming to represent a company or individual you work with, be cautious if they ask for personal details straight away. Financial institutions have a verification process in place, for example they will never ask you for the whole number of your business expense card. If you're unsure, hang up and call the trusted phone number for your bank or the publicly available phone number for the company they claim to be from.

Urgency and pressure: be wary of any sense of urgency. Don't let anyone pressure you into a ''limited-time offer'' promising incredible and often unbelievable returns. Always take a step back, investigate, and take a moment to think through any requests for immediate actions of people or organisations you don't normally work with. Be aware of these especially if your company has just announced expanding into a new market or is promoting a new product.

Too good to be true offers: remember the saying ''if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is''. Scammers often use unrealistic claims, and 'exclusive opportunities' for overnight success with minimal effort.

Recognising these warning signs could be crucial in protecting your business. Be cautious of unsolicited emails or messages requesting sensitive data or immediate actions. Urgent requests for funds or information should be met with scepticism. Always verify the identity of the sender through a separate communication channel before responding. Additionally, double-check email addresses for variations or misspellings that scammers might use to deceive you.

Understanding common scams

For small businesses, especially if they are expanding internationally, it is crucial to allocate time and resources towards familiarising yourself and your employees with the most common scams.UK Finances Take Five To Stop Fraud campaign not only sheds light on the most common scams that target both individuals and businesses, but also empowers you to confidently address any requests for your business' financial information.

Here are some common scams targeted on businesses:

Phishing emails: these emails often appear to come from a legitimate source, such as a bank or government agency, and ask recipients to provide personal information or login credentials. As mentioned above, you should be suspicious about any emails you're not expecting. Check for misspelling, and if in doubt, call the customer support on the number available on their website. Be aware of putting any sensitive information such as bank details and passwords in the links, as this may end up revealing data to scammers.

CEO Scam: The CEO scam is whenever someone claims to be a senior person in your business and urges your employees to make a fast payment. Be aware of putting any information about being out of office on social media platforms as this may be the perfect time for scammers to target your team members. They may be asked to pay an invoice or reveal sensitive data by someone pretending to be you. This may include changing bank details, making an urgent payment for a 'contract' or to a 'supplier'. Similarly, an Impersonation Scam is when an individual is trying to pretend to be someone else, hoping you may trust them with your business or financial details, in this case they may pretend to be an organisation or government body.

Invoice fraud: Scammers may send fake invoices posing as regular suppliers or service providers, hoping that a busy business owner will pay them without question. This type of scam can be targeted on anyone in the company, however, it's especially common for new employees and finance managers. This type of scam can result in significant financial losses and may take time to be detected as it may include recurring payments.

Investment Scam: An investment scam is whenever someone tries to sell you a stock, bond, commodities or without the asset actually existing. Before handing over any of your funds, always check whether they're a regulated company on the government's websites.

How to protect your business

Verify on official government and financial regulator's websites
Verifying the legitimacy of new suppliers and customers before engaging in transactions is vital, especially if you're just starting to expand overseas. These are official government bodies that allow you to access information and authenticate the business you're about to deal with:

In the UK, any financial services company can be viewed on the FCA website (Financial Conduct Authority) and any information about any registered company, including their official address, owners and documentation can be viewed on the government's website.

In the US, the SEC is responsible for regulating and overseeing the financial sector, along with SBA (U.S. Small Business Administration) containing data about small businesses in the US. Additionally, SAM (System for Award Management) database contains information about businesses registered to do business with the U.S. government.

In Australia, you can check any information about a business by accessing ABR (Australian Business Register) and ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission registers).

In Singapore, you can find information about business on the ACRA (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority).

In New Zealand, the New Zealand Ministry of Business website Companies Office through the companies register is the official source for providing information about any business.

3 top tips to implement today!

Employee training and education
While scams continue to evolve and become more sophisticated, there are steps you can take to protect your business from falling to them. One of the most effective ways is through comprehensive employee training. Educating your employees about common scams and the red flags we've just discussed, is the most efficient way to protect your business.

Secure your devices
Additionally, regularly updating security protocols within your organisation and enforcing strong password policies is a must. Ensure that all software and systems are up-to-date with the latest security patches, as this can help prevent scammers from exploiting vulnerabilities. Implementing two-factor authentication for email accounts adds an extra layer of protection, ensuring that even if passwords are compromised, unauthorised access is denied.

Effective communication
Often overlooked, one of the most important ways to protect your business from scams is having an open communication culture within your company. So that if you're on holiday and a suspicious email comes through, an employee is comfortable to discuss it with other employees, and flag any suspicious activities without fear or pressure. To protect your business, establishing clear channels for communications and reporting suspicious activity is crucial.

Is Wise safe for UK Businesses

Staying up to date

Always keep in mind that protecting your business from scams is an ongoing process that demands constant review and staying up to date, especially as your business grows and expands. Keep updated about the most common threats and prioritise effective communication within your business.

The UK National Crime Agency estimates 86% of scams and frauds are not accounted for. If you've been a victim of any scam or fraud, in the UK you can report it to Action Fraud which is actively trying to solve and catch these scammers.

In addition, you can report it on the UK Government Website. In the US, report it on this US Government Website , in Singapore the Singapore Government Website, New Zealand Government Website , Australia Government Website.

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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