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Celebrating small business during National Consumer Protection Week

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This week is National Consumer Protection Week, but what the FTC does to protect consumers is only part of the story. We also work hard to help small business get down to business. Here are just a few examples of what we’re doing to protect your business from deceptive practices.

Fighting fraud that targets small business.  Scammers have smaller companies in their sights. The FTC has gone to court to challenge the conduct of telemarketers who claimed to offer bargain rates on office supplies, but then allegedly overbilled small businesses and sent additional shipments without authorization. Or it may start with phony messages that companies are about to lose their URLs if they don’t fork over a renewal fee. Other fraudsters send fake invoices, hoping that busy workers will simply pay up. In a variation on the scheme, con artists call companies claiming they need to “verify” an order or a mailing address. If an unsuspecting employee confirms the contact information, the scammers later try to claim that’s “proof” the order was authorized. If business owners dare to fight back, they’re threatened with lawsuits, damaged credit – or worse.

A small business’ best defense is a workforce clued into the signs of a scam. The FTC has a brochure that explains the anatomy of common forms of fraud that target small businesses, including the Directory Listing Scam, the URL Hustle, the Supply Swindle, and the Charity Cheat. Pressed for time? Watch this video about how to protect your business.

Challenging deception aimed at entrepreneurs.  An entrepreneurial spirit permeates a vibrant economy, but some scammers exploit that inclination through bogus business opportunities. In one FTC case, promoters pitched a pricy work-at-home offer, but of the 110,000 people who bought their how-to products and services, 99.8% of them didn’t make a penny. In other actions, the FTC challenged a “business coaching” scheme, an online affiliate marketing outfit that billed itself as the “Six Figure Program,” and a “wealth-building” operation that promised big bucks for fledgling financiers.

Those are just a few examples of the dozens of cases the FTC has brought to protect entrepreneurs from “business opportunity” deception. But regardless of the promotion, the FTC’s pitch remains the same: Investigate the opportunity thoroughly, consult our resources, and seek out the advice of trusted friends or colleagues who have no connection to the sellers.

Helping companies protect themselves from emerging threats. Cybersecurity remains a top priority for companies of all sizes and we’re helping small businesses keep their defenses up. For example, we sounded the alarm about ransomware – a form of malicious software that infiltrates computer systems and holds data hostage – through a national conference, a video, and an in-depth blog post.

As part of our Start with Security initiative, we went on the road to hear how information security threats affect small businesses. The good news is that when it comes to securing sensitive data, you don’t have to start from scratch. Protecting Personal Information: A Guide for Business offers tips for implementing a plan to safeguard confidential customer and employee information. Start with Security distills it down to 10 practical lessons, complete with videos. And our revised brochure on Data Breach Response should be in every small business’ “just in case” file.

Cross post from Federal Trade Commission Blog