10 Online Scams That Target Small Businesses

Hackers use real-looking (but fake!) email and text messages to gain sensitive information. © Lava/beyond/Corbis

Phishing and smishing are innocent, funny-sounding names for insidious scams that use email and text messages to trick people into giving up sensitive personal information. Falling for a phishing (email) or smishing (text-message) scam could result in identity theft, computer viruses or any number of other disastrous outcomes.

Phishing and smishing can target anyone and everyone, and small-business owners are common victims. The basic method is an email or text with a dire message: Your credit card has been stolen, your bank account has been compromised, a complaint has been lodged against you with the Better Business Bureau. The email purports to come from a reputable business that you probably deal with regularly, and the language and graphics look legitimate and official at first glance. You're asked to follow a link and enter the pertinent information — Social Security number, username, password — to restore your account or otherwise fix things. Then all hell breaks loose and you're in deep trouble. If anything's questionable, pick up the phone and call your contacts to verify the email or text message.