Small Business Crimes and Scams - Free Enterprise

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Data and security breaches have become so common they're almost considered the cost of doing business these days. Even the most careful businesses may not be able to prevent a breach that compromises customers' private information. And as embarrassing as a data breach may be, it can be particularly harmful to customers if their information falls into the wrong hands.

Unless you're doing business solely in Alabama, New Mexico, or South Dakota, you're legally required to notify customers about a security breach, and you may need to take steps to mitigate or remediate injuries caused by the breach. But state laws can differ on the definition of applicable breaches, the level of harm that necessitates notice, and the notice required, among other things. Here's a look.

More information is being discovered in relation to Wells Fargo's recent scandal, showing that nearly 10,000 small businesses were also victims of the banking giant's illegal and corrupt up-selling practices. Despite CEO John Stumpf claiming ignorance as to whether small businesses were affected when he testified before the House Financial Services Committee, Senator David Vitter has discovered that thousands of small businesses have been affected by the fraudulent practices.

It may not be much of a relief, nor will most believe Wells Fargo, but the bank claims that the small business customers that were affected were included in the original count of the consumer retail accounts that were affected. However, the Consumer Financial Protection Board directly contradicted Wells Fargo statement on this issue, stating that the 2 million accounts already identified didn't include small business accounts.

If your small to medium-sized business is handling confidential medical information for clients or patients, you should know that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Civil Rights will now start investigating data breaches involving less than 500 individuals. According to the announcement by HHS last month, regional OCR offices will now have the discretion to prioritize investigations of small to mid-sized health care organizations that handle, process, or possess information protected by HIPAA.

If your healthcare related business handles information or documents covered under HIPAA, apart from ensuring compliance with the law, there are a few things you can do to avoid being investigated due to a data breach.

The Improving Small Business Cyber Security Act of 2016 is aimed at getting aid and resources to small businesses to improve their cybersecurity, and the bill is scheduled to come up for a vote in the House of Representatives today. While its passage is not guaranteed, the bill could have a huge impact on the tools and data available to your small business to keep it safe from hackers, data breaches, and other cybersecurity threats.

Here's a look at the Small Business Cyber Security Act and what it could mean for your company.

We hear a lot about the Ubers, the Airbnbs, and the Snapchats, privately-held tech startups valued at over $1 billion known in the industry as "unicorns." But not every startup ends well. And one story that surfaced recently tells the tale of a startup going down in flames.

A marketing professional relocated from Dallas, Texas to Silicon Valley to chase a startup dream. But from her account of a month on the job, she lived closer to a startup nightmare.

Biz Lessons From Macy's Lawsuit: Let Police Stop Thieves

You are sensitive to thefts and keep an eagle eye on customers in your shop. In fact, you are becoming so good at stopping shoplifters that you almost wish you were a cop.

Well, if you are not, then you should be careful with your approach as what you are doing may not be legal. Let law enforcement handle the business of crime and punishment. Macy's department stores in New York found that out the hard way already, according to The Guardian, and it may well pay heavily yet again. Let's look at their handling of thefts and a class action lawsuit filed against them to avoid repeating their mistakes.

Small Businesses, Beware Fake Government Agents

Have you ever gotten a shady phone call from someone claiming to be a government agent? Individuals get these calls all the time, with fraudsters claiming they are calling on behalf of tax or other authorities. But businesses too are targets for scammers, and ABC News reports on the latest trick aimed to deprive your business of its hard-earned money. Consider this a warning about workplace warning posters.

Feds Put FedEx on Trial for Illegal Drug Delivery

FedEx is on trial in federal court in California for delivering drugs, among other charges. The delivery giant is accused of knowingly dropping off millions of packages from illicit internet pharmacies, and the prosecution in its opening statement likened the package distributor to a part-time drug dealing operation.

Of course, FedEx can't be held responsible for what people mailed if it did not know that internet pharmacies were delivering illegal items. But federal prosecutors say that they have evidence that FedEx not only knew about the illegal drug deliveries, but worked to keep this type of business and to ensure customers did not switch to the competition, according to Courthouse News Service.

Any small business can be the target of crime, from outsiders or employees. And as small businesses have ramped up their technological know-how, so have scammers. So cybersecurity, credit card fraud, and sham office supply schemes are just a few of the concerns the average business owner needs to add to her already full plate.

Here are seven of the most prevalent small business crimes and scams, and what you can do to protect your small business, from our archives:

Learning From the Rapid Rise and Fall of Startup Billionaires

It's easy to get a complex about not being a billionaire when there are so many of them now, and so young. For example, last year Elizabeth Holmes was on top of the world, worth billions of dollars due to the valuation of her company Theranos. There's also Parker Conrad of Zenefits.

Today both companies are worth substantially less than last year, face criminal accusations, and the founders appear to have deceived people they met on their meteoric rise to the top. What's the takeaway for you in the story of these booming startups that seem to be stalling out?