The Internet is a great tool for entrepreneurs, but never depend on it solely for running your business. Just as cyber space pirates are able to lure unsuspecting teens into a friendship, that can turn deadly, savvy entrepreneurs have also been known to take the bait. Business deals, online auctions, and fraudulent transactions, are some of the milder types of scams that can catch anyone off-guard. But vowing never to get caught up in such a position again, can still leave you vulnerable to even worse Internet activities by hackers and thieves. Once a cyber space pirate discovers that you have an online business, the games begin.
Look Alike Competitors
The entrepreneur will find a large number of competitors in the Internet arena. If you think that you have a really unique item or idea, you will find it duplicated within a month, by another company. It will do you no good to try and stop the thieves that have grabbed your goods, and used as their own. The freedom of the Internet also has a down side with those that are willing to let you do the work so they can reap the benefits. Before exposing your product, or service, to the millions of potential online customers, look at the following:
Your Website Name – Does your domain give you the option to diversify into many different areas, or are you limited, and exposed, as a look alike for other companies to expand on? Example: www.myrealvitamins.com, can easily be confused with another name, such as, www.merealvitamins.com. While you may think that this is an easy name to remember, it is also one that can cause confusion to new and returning customers. If a pirate is hoping to gain off of your domain, they will copy your domain, name, and website, as closely as possible, to help feed the confusion.
Theft of Customer Data
Time and time again, we hear about a company’s data base being compromised, by hackers. Protecting your client’s bank accounts, charge card numbers, and personal information, can be an ongoing concern for the entrepreneur. Creating a cyber security plan of action is a must if you are collecting sensitive data from consumers. A great place to start you own security-tight system, is by taking the advice of the National Cyber Security Alliance. Making that call to a good client, reporting a theft of personal information, can be more than just embarrassing.
Tips, such as how to create strong passwords, setting up a separate offline system for protecting sensitive data, and steps to take in testing your security, are a few of the steps that every entrepreneur should know. Protection does not have to involve hiring an entire IT staff, but knowing how to put a security system, that works, in place.
Manipulation of Sales
Everyone hopes for that large order, or contract that can put them on easy street for the next year. Taking care in accepting work from an online customer is always a risk, especially with a huge order. These individuals need to be checked out thoroughly. It only takes one cyber space pirate to bring your business to its knees in financial ruin. Here is an example of how a savvy pirate can receive your product or service, without sending you a dime:
Mr. Jones has a product that is drop shipped to clients. One client, Mr. Smith, places a couple of small orders for goods and the payment is accepted through Paypal. Everything is fine until you begin receiving invoices from your supplier for product that was never ordered. You discover that your company information has been lifted by a pirate, and your entire company is at risk. As Mr. Jones thinks back, there was an email sent from Mr. Smith, offering updated information on the material used in your product. It was sent as an attachment. Oh yes, you should have known better, but Mr. Smith seemed to be a great guy.
Understanding Online Risks
While the Internet offers an easy way of doing business for the entrepreneur, there will always be risks. You will never be able to keep up with all of the devious types of theft that scammers and hackers come up with. Before taking that first order, make sure that you have an online security system in place. The Internet can be a wonderful tool in advancing your business, but never forget that forming relationships with clients, is just as important. If you have a good client, check out their credentials through sources available through the Internet. Better yet, plan a visit to introduce yourself and your company. Chances are, your client will have the same uneasy feelings about you and your firm.
Setting up your own cyber security system, questioning everything, and getting to know your clients, face to face, are three of the most valuable steps in protecting your business through Internet sales. For more information on how to get started, check out this article from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The time you spend in creating a safe environment for yourself and your clients, will well be worth the trouble now, and into the future. You may even wish to start a Blog for other entrepreneurs where the latest online fraud games can be shared. Cyber space pirates are, unfortunately, a way of life in our emerging global society. Be sure you are educated and ready.