“This scam can be devastating to a business’s bottom line – to the extent of forcing small and medium businesses into closure.”

Small businesses and other Australian businesses are increasingly being targeted by scam activity.

Australian businesses reported more than 5,800 scams in 2018, according to the ACCC’s Targeting scams report. Losses exceeded $7.2 million, up 53% on the year before.

This included losses of $3.8 million in sophisticated ‘business email compromise’ scams.

ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said scammers are hacking business email systems and impersonating the intended payment recipient.

“The scammers request changes to bank account details so that the business makes the payment to the scammer instead of the legitimate business,” he said.

“Depending on how long the scammers get away with this and how large the transfers are, this scam can be devastating to a business’s bottom line – to the extent of forcing small and medium businesses into closure.”

Any small business that transfers money via bank accounts is a potential target of this scam, according to the ACCC.

Small businesses with fewer than 20 staff were most likely to be targeted by scammers and accounted for more than 75% of reports to the ACCC

“Australian businesses must protect themselves by ensuring their staff are aware of these scams so they can identify and avoid them,” Mr Keogh said.

“Every business should have clear processes for transferring money and a procedure for verifying requests to change bank account details that uses multiple modes of communication.”

Australian small businesses are encouraged to visit ScamWatch to learn about potential scams and how to protect themselves.

Small businesses can also register for the Small Business Information Network to receive emails relevant to the small business sector.