Small Business Crimes and Scams - Free Enterprise

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Any retailer is only as good as the products it sells, and online retailers are no different. No marketplace wants to be known for allowing counterfeit goods, especially one as big as Amazon. So it's somewhat surprising that the two lawsuits filed by Amazon this week are its first against merchants for allegedly selling counterfeit items in the company's 20-year history.

Here's a look at the lawsuits and what they could mean for e-commerce and counterfeiters in the future.

As hackers and cyber attackers get more sophisticated, preventing digital security breaches in business becomes more difficult. As soon as the good guys find a way to stop one virus, the bad guys write another two. Over the past few years, cyber attackers have set their sights on businesses that rely on digital data to operate. The goal in a ransomware attack is to gain access to the business's computer systems, then encrypt the business's files, and require the business to pay a ransom in order to have their files un-encrypted.

Ransomware targets can range from individuals to small businesses, big businesses, and even government agencies. Because every business is different, each business needs to create a digital security policy and digital emergency plan to protect the business and the business's employees.

While different types of businesses will have different types of concerns when it comes to employees getting arrested, among the chief concern for business owners is whether the arrest will affect business. Typically, if an employee is arrested outside of work, for a crime not related to the work they perform, then a business likely will not need to be concerned about being exposed to liability as a result of the employees actions.

Unfortunately, when an employee performs a criminal act in furtherance of the business, a business can be held liable for the employee's actions. One of the more common examples of employees violating the law in furtherance of their employment is when employees must act as security, as one Taco Bell employee and franchise owner are learning.

This month, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) fined Forcerank, makers of a fantasy stock market trading game, $50K in connection with their game. The fine was specifically for failing to file a registration statement and also for failing to sell their contracts through the national securities exchange. While Forcerank's game was offered as a game, the SEC explained that the offering of a financial reward and entry fee for games where players are essentially playing the stock market invokes various federal laws put in place to protect investors.

Forcerank's mobile phone games asked players to predict the performance of ten different securities. Forcerank kept 10 percent of all entry fees. Players were rewarded with points and some even won cash. Forcerank was also hoping to collect data about market expectations that could be sold to other investment firms.

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.