Cash flow is the life blood of any business, but managing it can be difficult. According to the Westpac and Deloitte Small Business Report, small businesses in Australia are spending up to one working day every week chasing invoices.
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 introduced, Biz Invoice1, an online invoicing solution free with a Business One Low or High transaction account, that prevents fraudsters from updating the invoice sender's payment details.
Biz Invoice allows businesses to conveniently create and send secure and customised invoices directly from Westpac Live online banking at any time and have visibility of their cash flow position. With Biz Invoice, customers can set up automatic email payment reminders when invoices are overdue and receive payment notifications.
But Chandrasekkar says business owners still need to be wary and protect themselves from threats. Here are his top tips:
1. 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.
2. Computer security
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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Recommend you and your staff register for alerts
This article was originally published on Business News Australia.
Things you should know
1 Terms and Conditions apply. To be eligible for Biz Invoice you must hold a Westpac Business One Low Plan or Business One High Plan account. This information does not take your personal objectives, circumstances or needs into account. Consider its appropriateness to these factors before acting on it. Read the disclosure documents for your selected product or service, including the Terms and Conditions or Product Disclosure Statement at www.westpac.com.au/business-banking/online-banking/ and the , before deciding. Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian credit licence 233714.
All statements in this advertisement are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views or position of Westpac. The information provided in the presentation are general statements and for guidance only. This presentation has not been prepared with your situation in mind, and your individual situation may differ. Westpac’s products are subject to terms and conditions, fees and charges and certain criteria may apply. Full details are available on request.
This information is general only and does not constitute any recommendation or advice. It is current at the time of publication, and is subject to change. It has been prepared without taking account of your objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this you should, before acting on the information, consider its appropriateness, having regard to these matters. Consider obtaining personalised advice from a professional financial adviser and your accountant before making any financial decisions in relation to the matters discussed in this document, including when considering the finance options for your business.
Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian credit licence 233714.