10 Online Scams That Target Small Businesses

The business world is fraught with risks, and that includes scammers looking to use the internet for nefarious purposes. © Andrew Brookes/Corbis

Online or not, scams are nothing new — many of the con jobs on this list have been around for ages in one form or another. For the most part, the online scams that people are falling for today are just updated versions of rip-offs that everyone has heard of. Chain letters, fake invoices, vanity scams, overpayment scams, we've seen them all before. But the Internet has breathed new life into them, expanding their reach exponentially and making them even more dangerous.

Anyone can be a victim of an online scam, but small businesses are especially vulnerable. Startup companies often don't have the security of established businesses, and employees might not be as highly trained to avoid scams. Overworked, struggling business owners are often looking for help in improving their websites and marketing efforts, and scammers are only too happy to "help." Scammers also target people looking to start small businesses with offers of big paychecks for a seemingly small amount of work.

But while scams abound, many of the items on this list have legitimate counterparts (mystery shoppers really do exist!). "Internet marketing" can be a blanket term for all the scams and phony offers out there, but there are also plenty of reputable businesses that actually do help small businesses. The trick is figuring out who's for real — read on to find out who to trust and who to avoid like the plague.