Fraud Prevention Tips for Small Businesses

As a small business owner, safeguarding your business from fraudulent activities can be a daunting task. Frauds can range from credit card abuses to complex cyberattacks that have the potential to cripple your business. But with the right preventive measures, you can significantly mitigate these risks. Read on to discover 15 essential tips to protect your small business from fraud and cybercrime.


Understanding the Threat Landscape

Before delving into the preventive measures, it’s essential to comprehend the threat landscape that small businesses face. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), small businesses with fewer than 100 employees lose approximately $155,000 annually due to fraudulent activities. These businesses also have a higher fraud rate than larger companies. The most frequent source of fraud is credit card abuse, mainly because many business owners fail to separate their personal and business accounts or do not meticulously go through every line item on their bill.

1. Conduct Employee Background Checks

The first line of defense against fraud in your small business involves screening your employees meticulously before hiring them. This step is especially crucial for positions that involve handling finances. Background checks should verify previous employment, check for criminal records, and validate the provided references. This proactive measure can alert you to potential risks before they become a problem.

2. Implement Segregation of Duties

To prevent any single individual from having too much control over financial processes, ensure that financial responsibilities are divided among multiple employees. For instance, the person who creates invoices should not be the same person approving or making payments. This segregation of duties makes it difficult for fraud to go unnoticed.

3. Monitor Employee Behavior and Work Patterns

Keep a close eye on employee behavior and work patterns for any sudden or unexplained changes. This could be anything from increased secrecy, frequent late hours without a clear reason, or sudden lifestyle upgrades that seem inconsistent with their salary. While these are not definitive signs of fraud, they could be red flags that warrant further investigation.

4. Secure Your Information Systems

Every business owner should invest in a firewall as well as anti-virus, malware, and spyware detection software. It is also essential to back up your data regularly, which will make it easier for you to continue working in the event of a cyberattack.

5. Use a Dedicated Computer for Banking

To further reinforce your cyber defenses, use a dedicated computer for all your online financial transactions. Ideally, this computer should not be used for other online activities such as social media, email, and web surfing, which can expose the machine to vulnerabilities. Avoid mobile banking if possible.

6. Implement a Password Policy

A robust password policy is an easy and effective step you can take to protect your IT systems. Ensure that you and your employees change your passwords regularly, ideally every 60 to 90 days. Set rules that ensure passwords are complex, i.e., contain one upper case letter, one number, and are a minimum of eight characters long. Use different passwords for different online and system accounts.

7. Educate Your Employees

Employees are your biggest asset when it comes to preventing fraud. Hold regular training sessions on basic security threats (online and off) and prevention measures. Enforce the training by instituting policies that guide employees on the proper use and handling of company confidential information.

8. Monitor Transactions

Regularly review bank and credit card statements and track all business transactions. Any discrepancies should be immediately investigated. Daily checking of your online banking for suspicious activity is a good practice.

9. Implement a Whistleblower Policy

Encourage employees to report suspicious activities anonymously. A whistleblower policy helps create an environment where employees feel safe raising concerns about potential fraudulent activities.

10. Require Managerial Approvals

For significant transactions or changes to vendor payment details, require managerial approval. This double-checking process adds an extra layer of security.

11. Keep Accurate Records

Maintain clear and accurate financial records. Shoddy bookkeeping can mask fraudulent activities and make them harder to detect.

12. Use Two-Factor Authentication

Implement two-factor authentication for accessing sensitive financial information. This additional security layer can deter unauthorized access.

13. Rotate Job Duties

Rotating job duties among staff can prevent any single employee from being able to commit fraud without detection. It also allows multiple people to become familiar with each role, making irregularities easier to spot.

14. Verify Vendor and Client Information

Always verify the identity of new vendors or clients. Check their history, ask for references, and ensure that they are legitimate businesses before entering into any contracts or transactions.

15. Consult with Experts

Finally, consult with legal and financial advisors knowledgeable in fraud prevention. They can provide targeted advice and help you implement best practices tailored for your business.


Fraud prevention is an ongoing process that requires vigilance and regular updating of your security measures. By proactively adopting these 15 tips, you can significantly reduce your vulnerability to fraud and protect your small business’s assets and future. Remember, large, trusted financial services companies can also assist in protecting your small business against fraud.

If you would like to learn more about how Contego can help your business with a threat detection strategy, please contact us to arrange a no-obligation cyber security assessment.