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Online Crime Up 33% in 2008: Small Businesses Targeted- Quick Prevention Tips

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By Caleb Groos on March 31, 2009 7:08 AM

Yesterday the Department of Justice and the F.B.I. released their annual Internet Crime Report. It cited a 33% increase in complaints received by the Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3). At the same time that overall cybercrime is on the rise, small businesses in particular have become prime targets for computer crimes.

According to the IC3 report, the top types of complaints included undelivered merchandise (32.9%), internet auction fraud (25.5%) and credit card fraud (9%). For more details on the report, see coverage on FindLaw's Blotter.

With the increased ways in which business is conducted online, small businesses can become cybercrime victims in a multitude of ways -- as online purchasers who do never receive their order, as sellers to online credit card fraudsters, or as the holders of lots of data which nefarious hackers would like to borrow, for example.
According to Charles Matthews, president of the International Council for Small Business, small and midsize businesses have become prime targets for computer criminals because larger operations have spent years and millions on better information security. The IT security news site Dark Reading quotes Matthews from Visa's 2009 Security Summit as saying, "Nearly one-fifth of small businesses don't even use antivirus software," he said. "Sixty percent don't use any encryption on their wireless links. Two-thirds of small businesses don't have a security plan in place. These numbers are both surprising and disturbing."

In addition to taking steps to secure the business' network from attack, there are some simple steps businesses can take to prevent being taken by fraudulent online buyers. Here are the tips for businesses included in the IC3 report:

  1. Do not accept orders unless complete information is provided (including full address and phone number). Require address verification for all of your credit card orders.
  2. Be especially careful with orders that come from free e-mail services -- there is a much higher incidence of fraud from these services.
  3. Be wary of orders that are larger than your typical order amount and orders with next day delivery.
  4. Pay extra attention to international orders. Validate the order before you ship your product to a different country.
  5. If you are suspicious, pick up the phone and call the customer to confirm the order.
  6. Consider using software or services to fight credit card fraud online.
  7. If defrauded by a credit card thief, contact your bank and the authorities.

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