By: Mayte Penman, Bicultural Business Strategist
Being scammed is a real threat to every individual and every small business
As a small business owner, have you ever been paid with someone else’s credit card, faced delinquent utilities, or received false invoices to services or supplies you never received? Have you ever gotten a text from what appears to be Amazon, UPS, or any other delivery company with a tracking link? Have you ever been called by the IRS, or received emails from what appears to be PayPal, Microsoft or Outlook with fake claims that look legitimate? Perhaps you’ve received a text from your internet company with a link you need to click to access information for payment?
The list of phishing scams you might encounter could go on and on; many of them attempting to appear as “reputable” companies.
This is becoming an urgent issue. As reported by CNBC, consumers lost $5.8 billion to fraud last year – up 70% over 2020.
Today, we are interviewing Jazmine Cooper, one of the owners of 27th Letter Books, to share the company’s recent exposure and uncover lessons learned with hope that the information will help others avoid this type of experience. Earlier this year, 27th Letter Books was the victim of an aggressive cybercrime, leaving them no choice but to cover over $35,000 in losses.
Jazmine — I would like to commend you for bringing this issue to the forefront, as we need to be aware that this is happening to many people, yet it often goes unreported. Currently, there are a limited number of independent book stores in Detroit, so there’s a real hunger for what you’re offering the city. We saw in your recent GoFundMe campaign that the community showed up for you. How do you feel about the outpour of love and support? Were you surprised?
I was surprised not only by the amount of support, but how quickly the community came to our rescue. It was heartwarming to witness the GoFundMe reach its goal in 10 days. It definitely made me feel like what I’m doing is worth it, and made me hopeful about the future of, not only the bookstore, but also humanity’s love of the printed word. It’s definitely true that people still read printed books and the community wants us to stay! It’s truly heartwarming.
What are the lessons learned from this experience that you can share with others?
Make sure to follow your procedures with email orders and have a second person look over anything that might be even slightly strange or suspicious. Also, look into some cybersecurity and IT coverage so that you don’t feel like you’re on your own in the cyber world. Outside of very practical lessons, I also learned that it’s okay to learn from mistakes, and even more so okay to change how you do things in order to keep yourself safe. There’s nothing wrong with change and adjustment, especially when it’s to better your business.
What are some words of advice you can offer to your fellow business owners?
Don’t be afraid to rely on your community, but before you have to, make sure you know what your merchant services will hold you liable for. Having too many processes to identify fraud and deal with it will be more beneficial than not having any. Other than that, make sure that the community you’re in is going to have your back. If you’re already in a community and haven’t made steps to become familiar with the people around you, now is the time to do so. Familiarize yourself with all people who may or may not use your products or services because they may be the ones to help you out in the end when you’re in trouble. Being in Detroit has taught me that giving as much as you can as a business owner will be beneficial in times of need and outside of times of need. Feeling comfortable in the community and knowing that they want you here will make all the difference in the success of your business.
We also met with Marvin Williams, owner of Logical Owl and Data Tech Cafe, to ask questions on this topic. Marvin is an expert on security services. His company works with clients in setting systems for computer networks and hardware devices to protect against cybercriminals and hackers seeking to cause damage or steal sensitive information.
Marvin, thank you for all the support you provide to TechTown small business owners and entrepreneurs. In your experience, what is the most common problem you encounter when working with small business owners and entrepreneurs?
With regard to tech, I see many small businesses and entrepreneurs not investing in their technology infrastructure and treating it as an afterthought. The more time you lose, the more your productivity reduces. In return, you will lose more money. Having the right tech tools in place will help stop these problems before they start. By creating a tech plan and budget, you can prepare early and protect your IT infrastructure from threats and complications. Make your technology work for you; don’t work for your technology.
What would be the best advice you could provide to small business owners and entrepreneurs to protect themselves from cybercriminals and hackers?
Below is my “Top Five” List of how to protect yourself from cybercriminals and hackers:
- Train your employees – Most cybersecurity attacks take place between the “ears and the keyboard”. Training employees to recognize warning signs of cyberattacks, as well as how to keep risk low, is the first step. A system should be in place for reporting signs of an attack. Cybersecurity training should occur on an ongoing basis in order to keep up with ever-changing technology, threats and security vulnerabilities.
- Update software – Don’t skip software updates. Outdated software can expose your company to vulnerable security flaws.
- Enforce password policies – Create complex passwords. If you are like me and can’t remember all of your passwords, utilize a password management tool, and always utilize multi-factor authentication whenever possible.
- Outsource cybersecurity – Make sure to ask all vendors you work with what they are doing with regard to protecting you, your clients and your business. Cybersecurity is complex and involves many tools and multiple layers. If you don’t fully understand it, find a professional that does.
- Evaluate your online systems – You should have a complete understanding of your online computer operations. This includes where data lives and where it is stored. Ask the same of the vendors, partners and systems you interact with. Investing in cybersecurity insurance can also help protect your business from financial losses.
For more information on the topic of cybersecurity for your business, please check out the following links:
- SCAMS AND YOUR SMALL BUSINESS: A Guide for Business. PDF
- SCAMS AND YOUR SMALL BUSINESS: A Guide for Business. WEB
- Taxpayers can protect themselves from scammers by knowing how the IRS communicates
- Unwanted Emails, Texts and Mail
27th Letter Books is a community-focused and collectively-run independent bookstore. Their curation aims to highlight new books with a diversity of authorship and excellent writing craft. They also host community events programming around storytelling in all forms: written, visual, audio, and hybrid.
Whether you’re looking for cabling, internet, IT support, or security services, Logical Owl and Data Tech Cafe can offer you options and handle the installation while you get on with your day-to-day operations.