Las Vegas (KSNV) — Small businesses across Southern Nevada, which struggled to survive the COVID-19 lockdowns, are now being warned about fraudsters as they work to get back on their feet.
“Fraudsters are becoming more and more resourceful, unfortunately,” said Joe Trimble, the regional small business manager for Wells Fargo Bank.
Trimble says small business owners are falling victim to scams in three areas.
“Number one, businesses, computers, or phones are compromised. Number two is around the business signer,” he added. “And then, number three is just sheer theft.”
That’s why Trimble says small business owners need to make sure employees pay attention to detail, and not be afraid to speak up if something doesn’t seem right.
That might include an email that appears to be from the boss when in reality, it’s an impersonator using a common scam.
“Someone will email another key person at the organization pretending to be a high-level executive, or even the owner of the company, and then that person is asking for information,” said Trimble.
“It could be transferring money, or maybe they asked for, what’s our operating account number again?”
Some scam artists are bold enough to attempt schemes targeting law firms.
Business attorney Gina Bongiovi said her law firm was recently approached by a supposed client in connection with a deal to purchase some medical equipment.
“Just last week, an attorney I do a lot of business with said, ‘oh, I’m referring you a client who needs help with the contracts, and the client contacts me,” she said.
Bongiovi, who is also the chair of the Vegas Chamber Board of Trustees, said the person then requested her to escrow $300,000 which raised a red flag.
“As soon as I saw we needed to hold money in escrow, I was like, nope, this is a scam. And it even looked like the entity exists and things like that, but because email address can be spoofed so easily, it’s hard to know what’s accurate.”
Bongiovi says small business owners need to be defensive as they work to recover financially from the lockdowns.
That includes “keeping an eye on your credit report and putting some protocols in place if you have a team,” she said.
That means educating their team about potential scams and let them know it’s okay to dig a little deeper if something doesn’t feel right.
“People just don’t know, especially employees, they have the luxury of asking additional questions,” Bongiovi said, “and the business owners need to empower them to ask those additional questions to say, ‘hey, that doesn’t really pass the smell test. Is this a request that I should fulfill?’”
Joe Trimble also suggests small business owners should visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website, ftc.gov, for additional information on scams.