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Understanding business scam methods and tactics

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How different types of businesses are targeted by scammers

Many scammers try to prey on the trusting nature of businesses, taking advantage of their desire to do what's best for their customers. Others take a more calculated approach, exploiting weaknesses in the business and financial systems to make off with significant sums of money. 

Dark Reading reports that 83% of companies fell prey to a successful email phishing attack in 2021, which was a 46% increase from 2020. Businesses must be vigilant at all times if they want to protect themselves from becoming victims.

Fortunately, many resources are available to help companies stay alert for signs of fraud. With diligence and caution, businesses can foil scammers' attempts and focus on growth instead of worrying about cybercriminals.

What industries are targeted by scammers?

Many different industries are targeted by scammers. For example, finance, retail and subscription-based software businesses were at the highest risk of phishing scams in 2022. Given the size and profitability of businesses in these industries, it's not surprising that scammers would focus their efforts on them.


The most commonly targeted industry is the finance sector. Financial information is a prized commodity for criminals. Scams often involve soliciting financial information or money directly from individuals within organizations.

Subscription-based software companies

Another common target for scammers is subscription-based software companies. These businesses rely heavily on customer loyalty and long-term relationships to keep their revenues steady and maintain profitability. They can be vulnerable to schemes such as phishing attacks or malware that hijacks user accounts.


Retail is also often a target for scammers. This may be due to the high volume of transactions within this industry and the wealth of individual data collected from customers at each point of sale. With so many transactions being carried out daily in stores across the country, there are ample opportunities for scammers looking to steal sensitive information or generate fraudulent purchases.

Are small businesses prone to fraud?

While the scale of wrongdoing might differ, small businesses can face many of the same challenges as larger organizations when preventing and detecting fraud. Because small companies may not have the resources that a large enterprise has at their disposal, they may be more vulnerable to schemes from crooks who get past basic screening measures.

The key factor here is the difference in scale between large and small businesses. With fewer resources and people involved in financial decisions, small businesses may be more susceptible to manipulation by nefarious actors seeking to steal funds or obtain confidential information.

What are some common scam methods?

There are many different scam strategies scammers use to prey on innocent victims. These strategies vary based on the type of business or institution being targeted.

However, scammers typically use several common methods, such as posing as representatives from reputable organizations and using aggressive sales tactics. Additionally, phone scams and suspicious phone numbers often play a crucial role in many con schemes, as some people may trust phone calls more than other forms of communication.


Phishing is a scam method that involves sending fraudulent emails or messages to obtain sensitive information from individuals or organizations. These messages often appear to be from legitimate sources, such as banks or other institutions. They trick recipients into responding with personal data, passwords and credit card info. The purpose of phishing is typically to enable identity theft or other forms of fraud.

There are several ways you can avoid phishers. One effective strategy is simply being aware of the dangers associated with sharing your personal information online and questioning any requests for sensitive data. Also, choosing strong and unique passwords can prevent scammers from gaining access to your accounts, even if they acquire your other login details through a phishing attack.

Likewise, antivirus software or other security tools can help detect and shut down malicious activity before it causes too much damage. Stay safe online by taking proactive measures and learning to tighten your account security and reporting fraud claims.


Robocalls are one of the biggest scams out there today. Scammers make automated calling to unsuspecting victims, usually in an attempt to steal personal information or trick people into sending money.

There are a few different ways robocall scammers try to trick their targets:

  • Spoofing;
  • IRS scams;
  • Loan scams;
  • Charity scams;
  • Customer care scams.


Despite the cunning and sophisticated methods of these scammers, there are several ways you can avoid being targeted by robocall scams:

  • Be wary of unsolicited calls, and never provide personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call yourself.
  • Check your phone carrier's website regularly, as many companies alert customers when they spot a harmful scam or identify suspicious numbers.
  • Invest in some call-blocking software for your phone or sign up for services that actively work to prevent unwanted robocalls from contacting you.

Social engineering

Social engineering is an often-used scam method in which criminals use psychological manipulation to convince people to give them sensitive information such as passwords, financial details or Social Security numbers. This scam works by preying on people's trust and sense of obligation — the scammers will target specific individuals or groups and use methods such as online impersonation or other forms of trickery to obtain information. Typical social engineering methods include:

  • An email with a malicious attachment or link.
  • A message pretending to be from a trusted source.
  • A phone call or voicemail purporting to be from a legitimate organization.

While social engineering scams can be challenging to detect, there are some steps that you can take to avoid falling victim:

  • Do not disclose sensitive information online or over the phone unless you are sure you are dealing with a legitimate organization or individual.
  • Be wary of unexpected communication from people who claim to need your help or seem desperate for assistance. Never provide personal details unless you have verified that the source is legitimate.
  • If you receive a suspicious email, do not open any attachments or click on any links unless you are positive they are safe.


Malware, or malicious software, is a class of computer programs designed to cause damage or harm to a user's system. These programs can be used for shady purposes, including stealing sensitive data and locking users out of their systems until they pay a ransom. To carry out these scams, scammers employ various techniques, such as fishing emails or text messages. These scammers try to trick users into downloading harmful software onto their devices by masquerading as legitimate entities like banks and government agencies.

Once the malware has been installed on the target system, it can exploit system vulnerabilities to steal valuable information from the user — such as passwords and credit card numbers — or lock the user out entirely until they pay a ransom.

Fortunately, there are several steps users can take to avoid falling victim to malware scams:

  • Never download software from untrustworthy sources.
  • Be vigilant when opening emails or following links on websites.
  • Keep your systems up-to-date with the latest security patches and antivirus software.

By being aware of the most common types of scams and taking steps to safeguard your information, you can help ensure that your business remains safe from harm.