MoneyWorks owner Thandeka Zondi cautions against growing cybercrime rates

Small business encouraged to increase vigilance against growing cybercrimes during and post lockdown.

The lockdown to flatten the curve of the infection rate for the coronavirus has made small businesses that were in precarious financial positions even more desperate, making them easy pickings for the growing cybercrimes. In search of financial solutions with easy and quick access, small business owners may unwittingly fall for the many sophisticated phishing scams out there. 

Some small businesses have seen their cash flow dry out with not much time to plan, during the lockdown, and many owners are looking for immediate financial assistance creating an opportunity for a new class of cybercrime that is specific to this new era of financial desperation. Much has been made of the financial assistance that small businesses can get from the government and their banks, and many on the lookout for these, unwittingly fall prey to fraud. 

Business owners have heard about existing national financial vehicles set up to assist them, so when they see something offering help with the added value of being simple and fast, they do not question it. Unfortunately, criminals depend on this and they are exploiting it.

The challenge with financial fraud is that it is designed to look and sound like the adverts that small business owners are used to, so they do not think to investigate it. I suggest that there are certain things that people can quickly research the company making the offer to ensure that the company and the offer itself are legit. Before sharing any information please check the following red flags before proceeding:

  1. The email address used to send the email.  If the company name is not on the actual email eg [email protected] it most likely not legitimate 
  2. Check business website and see if the company offering and details match. The phishing scams clone the identity of the company including the NCR and FSCA registration numbers but change the offering, address and contact numbers.
  3. Check the validity of the physical address. Check on maps if the company address exists. Some use legitimate business park names with false building numbers 
  4. Check the reasonableness of the interest rate offered. If the rate is lower than the repo interest rate or not comparable with what others in the industry are offering, its probably also not real. 
  5. Ask if they are any upfront fees required

Please remember some of these scams are sophisticated they may deposit the money then reverse the payment once you have made a payment and continue to run illegal debit orders through your account.

Small business owners cannot be careful enough about the information that they provide to the phishing schemes during the supposed due diligence and credit checks during the application of the loan process. This information is enough for the criminals to establish loans that they will neither service nor honor, and can wreak havoc on the credit rating of small businesses. 

Everyone has heard about the rise in the prices of the essential things and are careful to shop around before making a purchase. This same vigilance must be applied when small business owners are looking for a loan. Shop around, compare the services and the interest rates to make sure that they are not only fair but are comparable with what others in the industry are offering. So many people will, to their horror, find out that in haste to access financial support they may have created an even bigger financial hole or worse signed away the businesses they have worked so hard to build. 

I would like to encourage people to use their common sense when considering financial and business engagements, and to do extensive research before they apply. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.