How America's small businesses can become cyber savvy and scam-free
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America’s 28 million small-business owners are living their American dream — and furthering the dreams of the 57 million people they employ. Their entrepreneurial drive is the backbone of our economy and the heart of what our nation is all about.

As acting chairman of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), our joint mission is to help businesses focus on business. That’s why we’ve teamed up to develop tools so companies take on two of their biggest concerns: fraud and cyber threats.

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Fraudsters have small businesses in their sights. Managing a company and meeting a payroll are full-time jobs for any entrepreneur, many of whom don’t have sophisticated recordkeeping or IT systems at their disposal. Con artists use fake invoices, office supply rip-offs, and other variations on a scheme to separate small businesses from the working capital they need to flourish.

 

Business owners tell us that protecting their companies from cyber threats is another challenge they face. Data breaches impose ever increasing costs on businesses, both in terms of money and reputation. For example, the percentage of spear-phishing attacks targeting small business rose dramatically from 18 percent to 43 percent between 2011 and 2015, according to a 2016 Internet Threat Security Report issued by Symantec.

Savvy owners understand why it’s essential to have reasonable cybersecurity measures in place: it’s good for business, it builds consumer confidence — and it’s the law.

The FTC and SBA have joined forces to help make it easier for smaller companies to protect themselves from these risks. It boils down to three principles.

Utilize free resources

You’re busy running a business, which is why the FTC and SBA have free materials for pressed-for-time business owners. The FTC just launched a new site, FTC.gov/SmallBusiness, to help your company stay ahead of the latest scams, reduce the risk of cyber threats, and respond in case of a data breach.

The SBA has a lot to offer, too, including online resources at SBA.gov and professionals eager to share their expertise on scams, cybersecurity, and a host of other concerns. Have a question you can’t find an answer to? Contact your local SBA office. They’ll do their best to help you and won’t charge you a thing.

Train your staff

Your best defense against scammers and cyber threats is a staff trained to spot the warning signs. Fill them in on the tell-tale hints of B2B fraud. When it comes to confidential data, put sensible procedures in place to require hard-to-guess passwords, routine data backup, and secure use of laptops and devices. There’s no need to start from scratch. FTC.gov/SmallBusiness and SBA.gov may have just what you need to make your point.

Speak up

Complaints help the FTC and other law enforcement agencies bring the perpetrators to justice. File a complaint at FTC.gov/complaint or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.

The FTC and SBA stand ready to help our small businesses protect their customers, themselves, and their bottom line.

Maureen K. Ohlhausen is acting chairman of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

Linda McMahon is administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.