If you’re a small business owner, there are many online scammers who go to great lengths to get money or other personal information from you. The good news is, if you know what red flags to look out for, you’ll be able to spot a scam a mile away and avoid a costly mistake. There are a variety of tactics that scammers will use, so here’s a list of some of the most common scams.
1. Calls From “Google”
If you get a call from someone claiming to be from Google asking for money to be featured higher in the search engines or for other personal login information, you can guarantee it’s a fraud. According to Google, they only ever call you if you’re in the process of verifying your Google listing to give you a code. Any calls asking for money or logins are fake, as a Google business listing is free to claim and verify. And if you use Google Adwords, you would be notified on your Google account, not via a phone call. So the next time you get someone from Google calling for money or personal information, you can simply hang up the phone.
2. Fake Charities Asking For Fake Donations
As a small business owner, you probably take pride in giving back to the community and supporting causes you believe in. Scammers know this and will try to prey upon your generosity by pretending to be just about anyone from any organization to get your money. The first step is to have them verify that they are actually legitimate. You can do so by finding the charity’s official website, doing research into the charity to ensure that it’s real, and you can even contact them directly to make sure your donation goes to the cause you want to support, not a scammer’s wallet.
3. False Domain Hosting Renewal Notices
Your website is an essential part of your online presence, and if you get a notice in the mail or a phone call threatening the expiration of your site, it’s natural to go into defensive mode. Most of these scammers will give you an immediate ultimatum to pay now or lose your website, but that’s not how domain hosting really works. Knowing who your web domain hosting company is goes a long way, and if it’s not then you can easily rule it out as fake (but don’t be surprised if they try to look official or from that company). The next thing you should do is check your account or make a call to your domain hosting company to verify the due date of your domain name and to clarify the status. If your domain name is going to expire, your hosting company will let you know well in advance, and won’t threaten to remove your website or demand money or other personal information immediately over the phone.
4. Claims of Guaranteed Top Rankings
Whether or not your website is being optimized for search engines with an SEO campaign, there are scammers out there who will tell you your site has issues, and only they can solve them to get your first on the search engines. Being informed about how SEO actually works goes a long way to dismissing false claims and scams. For one, not only does it take a lot of research and time to optimize your website, but it takes time—sometimes months—for Google to index and populate your website at higher rankings, especially if you have a new website and URL. Anyone promising you otherwise is lying because even if you have pay-per-click ad listings on Google, your ranking is never guaranteed and Google is upfront about that. The only way to achieve better rankings overall, in the long run, is to hire an experienced and legitimate SEO firm, who will work on your website to keep up with the constant changes Google makes to it’s ranking algorithms, standards, and criteria.
As a business, you are likely to be bombarded by calls and emails as it is, and if there are ever any offers that are too good to be true, they probably are. There are some precautions you can take to avoid any type of scam or fraud attempt, such as deleting suspicious emails that either contains a virus or are trying to steal your personal information. Another thing you can do is contact your website hosting company to clear up any scams related to your websites, such as your domain, SEO, or online directory listings. Don’t believe suspicious offers at first glance, and do your research before you fall into a trap that can lead to a leak of your personal information or the loss of money.