Everyone knows about the dangers of identity theft, but less people are aware of the existence of business fraud.  Though business fraud is relatively new in the scheme of things, it’s become pervasive enough to garner our attention.  Business fraud can happen in a myriad of ways and costs more than $50 billion a year for U.S. businesses. Staying alert to the potential for business fraud is an important part of protecting your company, its assets, and its employees.

Keeping your company safe can also mean a bit of hyper-vigilance on your part.  It’s definitely better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the security and success of your company, so here are a couple things you can do on a regular basis to remain alert and protect yourself from business fraud.

1. Research other businesses.  A great way to be on the lookout for potential business fraud is to verify the demographic information of any company you’re looking to enter into business with.  Businesses can be more difficult to pin down than individuals; businesses go through name changes, experience shifts in leadership, and move to an office on the other side of town.  Fortunately, a lot of fraudulent businesses use the same fake information over and over again to try and deceive their partners, so a bit of quick research on a business’s history can be invaluable, even if it requires some digging.  If you match a company’s information to a known case of fraud, you’ll avoid potentially becoming victim of the same type of scam.

2. Practice internet safety.  Many fraudsters scam businesses online, either by stealing their information or by tricking people into giving it away.  February 11 was Safer Internet Day, but don’t worry if you missed it– practicing internet safety can be be as simple as installing a program once a year.  For starters, always have a firewall and anti-virus software installed on company computers (and yes, even Macs can get viruses these days).  Be wary of emails promising too-good-to-be-true deals (and definitely don’t click on any links in the email!).  Create strong passwords with lots of characters and inconsistent capitalization; the more complicated it is, the harder it is to guess.

3. Guard your personal information.  Scams often involve strange requests for information such as your PIN, credit card number, or address.  Trust your intuition on this one– if something doesn’t feel right, request more information.  Something as simple as hanging up a sales call and redialing the number yourself can reveal whether the caller was actually calling from the number on your caller ID.  I’ve talked before about how to keep your banking information secure, so check out this article for more tips on information safety.

Don’t allow yourself to live in fear, but don’t allow carelessness to open the door for fraud, either.  However you decide to keep your company safe, stay consistent in your practices and encourage your employees to do the same.  Practicing safety is never a bad strategy!

Photo credit: vasile23, Flickr