The word ‘scam’ has unfortunately become rather popular in the digital age. Whether we’re sat at home, behind a counter or at the office desk, there will be an inevitable encounter with someone (or something) that aims to steal personal data or money.

However – don’t panic. Although scams are an unfortunately inevitable occurrence in modern life, they’re rarely a threat to our personal safety, and most can be avoided – if you know what to look out for.

Here’s five common scams that might head the way of your social enterprise, and how you can avoid them.

1. Phishing

Businesses are often targets of phishing scams. This is where an unexpected email, text or phone call will arrive and attempt to coerce you into clicking a link or handing over valuable data such as credit card details.

Some phishing scams are highly sophisticated and use recognised company branding in an attempt to fool the recipient.

How to avoid: if you receive any kind of communication that requests you click a link or hand over data and you weren’t expecting it (even if it appears to be from your bank) – avoid, delete or hang up.

2. Vanity

It’s nice when someone calls your social enterprise and tells you how fabulous it is, isn’t it? It’s not so nice, however, when they ask you for money to appear in a magazine feature telling the world about your enterprise, before disappearing without trace once you’ve handed it over.

Vanity scams rely on the human trait of welcoming praise in order to lower someone’s guard and trick them into sending across money for a non-existent service.

How to avoid: be wary of any call or email that suggests you’re missing out by not appearing in a business registry, and never accept offers to appear in magazine articles that arrive completely out of the blue.

3. Fake invoices

There seems to have been quite a few of these scams flying around at the time of writing, and they’re thankfully quite easy to spot.

Fake invoices are just that – invoices that arrive in your inbox from what look like trusted, known brands. There’ll be an attachment you’re encouraged to open, within which is likely to be a virus or some form of malware.

How to avoid: most savvy social entrepreneurs know what they’re spending their money on, and if you receive an invoice (usually for a large amount) that you weren’t expecting and cannot link it to any form of expenditure on behalf of the social enterprise, don’t open the attachment – delete it immediately.

4. Payroll

This form of scam is rather less palatable, because it will likely originate from someone you currently employ.

Thankfully, payroll scams are pretty rare – particularly in the social enterprise space – but they do happen. There’s a number of ways people will trick you into paying them over the odds, from time on site being falsified to accessing the payroll system and playing with the numbers.

How to avoid: keep an eye on your payroll month-by-month. If it appears to be inconsistent or there are peaks when there shouldn’t be, take a look into exactly what’s happening.

5. Charity

Charity fraud is perhaps one of the cruelest of the lot, because it preys on our desire to be good human beings.

Those who commit charity fraud will usually do so either by email or phone. They’ll tell the story of something dreadful that needs support and ask for a donation on your part. Invariably, there’ll be a convenient link for you to click in order to enter your credit card details (which they may steal, too).

How to avoid: if you run a social enterprise, you’ll probably work closely with charities, therefore spotting rogue organisations shouldn’t be too difficult. Once again, if you weren’t expecting a request for money or if the charity isn’t registered, avoid handing any money over.

Wrapping up

Running a social enterprise is hard enough without having to look out for incoming scams, but they’re a reality of modern life.

Remember the golden rule: if something doesn’t feel right, go with your gut instinct and step away as quickly as possible!