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It’s not news that cybercriminals are increasingly targeting small businesses to transfer funds from accounts and steal private information, a fraud referred to as “corporate account takeover.” Alas, criminals will try to spoof emails, use malicious software and online social networks to obtain login credentials to businesses’ accounts, which they then attempt to make illicit transactions.

“Unfortunately, small businesses are a growing target for account takeover,” said Joe Grimstad, president of Decorah Bank & Trust Company. “Combating account takeover is a shared responsibility between businesses and financial institutions. Your business banker can explain the safeguards small businesses need and the numerous programs available that help ensure fund transfers, payroll requests and withdrawals are legitimate and accurate. Employees should be trained about safe internet use and the warning signs of this fraud, as they are the first line of defense at combating account takeover. ” said Grimstad.              

Here are a few tips to help prevent account takeover:

  • Protect your online environment. Engage your employees.  It is important to protect your cyber environment just as you would your physical location. Do not use unprotected internet connections. Encrypt sensitive data and keep updated anti-virus and anti-spyware protection on your computers. Change passwords from the default to something complex, including at point-of-sale terminals.
  • Partner with your bank for payment authentication. Talk to your banker about services that offer call backs, device authentication, multi-person approval processes, batch limits and other tools that help protect you from unauthorized transactions.
  • Pay attention to suspicious activity and react quickly. Put your employees on alert. Look out for strange network activity, do not open suspicious emails and never share account information. If you suspect a problem, disconnect the compromised computer from your network and contact your banker. Keep records of what happened.
  • Understand your responsibilities and liabilities. The account agreement with your financial institution will detail what commercially reasonable security measures are required in your business. It is critical that you understand and implement the security safeguards in the agreement. If you don’t, you could be liable for losses resulting from a takeover. Talk to your banker if you have any questions about your responsibilities.

Additional Resources:

Ten Cybersecurity Strategies for Small Business

U.S. Department of Homeland Security


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