Cash flow is the life blood of any business, but managing it can be difficult.
According to Westpac and Deloitte, small businesses in Australia are spending up to one working day every week chasing invoices that's a lot of time.
During that tunnel-vision slog, where business owners become buried headfirst in processes and management, small details are simpler to overlook.
That's when e-fraud can become a serious threat.
The situation might sound unbelievable, but according to Westpac general manager of SME banking Ganesh Chandrasekkar the dangers of e-fraud are very real and apply to businesses of any size.
"The increased risk of e-fraud has become a real pain point among small businesses with many unsure of how to tackle the problem and protect their business. One of the most common threats we're seeing is when a business invoice is intercepted and payment then made to fraudsters instead of them," says Chandrasekkar.
"Prevention is better than the cure so always be alert of strange or potentially misleading emails that come through."
According to Chandrasekkar identifying e-fraud is just one way to avoid getting hurt in the first place.
"E-fraud encompasses a large range of attack vectors used by cybercriminals, which could be targeting a business directly via malicious software or indirectly by compromising a supply chain," says Chandrasekkar.
Potential threats could be someone pretending to be your business and requesting payment for services.
Another way to see if you're potentially under threat is a high number of low value transactions appearing on your bank statements.
"This could indicate cybercriminals are either validating stolen credentials or testing the business's systems for weaknesses," says Chandrasekkar.
To help protect customers against e-fraud Westpac has introduced a new free invoicing solution, Biz Invoice which prevents fraudsters from updating the invoice sender's payment details.
It allows businesses to conveniently create and send secure and customised invoices directly from Westpac Live online banking at any time and have better visibility of their cash flow position. From mid-May, businesses will also be able to send and set up payment reminders when invoices are overdue and receive payment notifications in Biz Invoice.
But Chandrasekkar says business owners still need to be wary and protect themselves from threats. Here are his top tips:
Safely send and receive invoices:
Many small businesses are increasingly at risk as business owners continue to rely on paper-based processes and spreadsheets to complete supplier invoice administration. The increased risk of invoice fraud can have significant ramifications on a business's ability to operate by stifling cash flow.
Biz Invoice provides another level of security for our business customers, as payment information is not displayed on invoice emails, but on the invoice itself which is hosted on the Biz Invoice portal. As a result fraudsters cannot intercept an email and update the invoice sender's payment details.
We encourage small business owners to install anti-virus software, ensuring operating systems and browsers are up to date and the latest security enhancements are installed. All devices, including mobile phones and tablets, should be password protected.
Stay cautious when online and when using social media:
Everyone should regularly check their privacy settings and register for two factor authentication to help keep social media and email accounts secure.
Beware of impersonators:
Criminals often like to pose as well-known organisations to entice you into fulfilling their requests. Common impersonations include ASIC, the ATO, energy companies or utility companies. If it doesn't sound right, it probably isn't. You should also never give unsolicited callers remote access to your computer.
Be on the lookout and educate your staff about scams targeting businesses:
Always verbally validate any payment requests or account changes that are delivered via email. Regardless of if the sender claims to be from a supplier or appears to be someone in your company, call them on a trusted number to verbally confirm first.
Recommend you and your staff register for Stay Smart Online Alert Service or Scamwatch Radar alerts:
These are free Government initiatives that alert of new online threats as they are identified.
This article is sponsored content in conjunction with Westpac. This information is general in nature and should not be relied upon for personal financial use.
Business News Australia
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