How to avoid falling victim to a business scam

The owner of a Eugene small business credits the quick response of Oregon Pacific Bank with helping him avoid a major loss after his towing company was targeted in a digital scam recently.

Kelly Reed, owner of A+ Towing and Webfoot Towing in Eugene, was initially a little suspicious when he received an email from a vendor that promised a significant discount if he agreed to submit his payment electronically. Kelly sent an email to check to see if the offer was legitimate, and when he received word that it was, he went ahead and sent the payment.

Later that day, however, he heard from the vendor that their email systems had been hacked, and Kelly realized he’d been taken.

“It was just a pit in your stomach,” he recalls. “It was a horrible feeling, because you’re thinking, ‘How’d we get duped?’”

It was after-hours on a Friday night, but Kelly immediately called his banker, Troy Reichenberger, a Senior Vice President and Commercial Team Leader at OPB’s Eugene branch. Troy and Vicki Gray, an SVP and Relationship Banking Team Leader, worked with their team to intercept the transaction. It took a bit of work, and it involved the assistance of another community bank in Texas.

“Basically, we were able to neutralize it,” Vicki says.

Because the transaction occurred over a weekend, it took a few days before Kelly knew for sure the payment had been reversed. “We felt a huge relief when we heard they’d gotten it in time,” he says.

It’s just one example of what a community bank like OPB can offer its clients, Vicki says.

“When you bank with a community bank, you generally know your banker very well,” she says. “You have a team of people whose job it is and whose pleasure it is to serve you.”

Troy says businesses are seeing a lot of similar scam attempts. In fact, business-related scams cost U.S. companies billions each year. They can be difficult to detect, but businesses need to be on the lookout.

“If you recognize something that you think is from a client or someone that you know, and it seems kind of out of character, pick up the phone and call them,” he says.

Here are some tips to prevent falling victim to a scam:

  • Never share passwords and change your passwords regularly.
  • Keep checks and banking information in a secure, locked location.
  • Don’t open attachments that you are not expecting to receive without verbal verification.
  • Review your bank activity online—daily, if possible.
  • Business owners should have access to online accounts and review the activity regularly.
  • Limit check and payment signers to owners, if possible, and/or require multiple approvals.
  • Verify any change in payment instructions or banking information by phone. Instead of providing information to someone who has called you; hang up and call your financial institution directly.

In addition, Oregon Pacific Bank’s Positive Pay program can help catch and prevent check fraud before it occurs.

Kelly has since implemented extra security steps to guard against a repeat incident. That includes calling and checking with a person they know before sending any electronic payments.

He says he appreciates the banking relationship he’s had with Troy over the years as his businesses have grown. “What it means to us to have a community bank is that it’s a one-on-one relationship,” Kelly says. “I don’t think I would have that with a lot of other banks.”

For more information:

FBI: Defining Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams and how to avoid them
FTC: Scams and Your Small Business
FTC: How to Avoid Scammers

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