Protect Your Business from Coronavirus-related Fraud

See what FBI Cleveland Supervisory Special Agent Milan R. Kosanovich had to tell us about the new types of fraud emerging during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, criminals are attempting to exploit COVID-19 worldwide through a variety of scams, including individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online, phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, malicious websites and apps that appear to share virus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received, and seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations. . . just to name a few.

We spoke with FBI Cleveland Supervisory Special Agent Milan R. Kosanovich to learn how businesses can protect themselves from the new types of fraud that are emerging during the coronavirus pandemic. See what he had to say:

What new types of fraud are you seeing that businesses should be aware of?

Most of the newly reported frauds involve a COVID-19 take on traditional frauds such as business e-mail compromise scams, non-delivery of goods and investment schemes. Knowing what typologies the fraudsters are employing will enables businesses to be on notice to spot and weed out potential scams.

What can businesses do to protect themselves from this fraud?

Businesses can protect themselves by ensuring that switching to a work at home environment does not diminish robust checks and balances for the transmission of sensitive messaging or the wiring of funds to pay suppliers, etc. Additionally, providing awareness messaging to employees of the new types of phishing and social engineering methods currently employed by fraudsters will help to minimize the victimization of local businesses. Fraudsters are trying to take advantage of the fact that most workplaces have less in-person contact at the moment and fears for how to operate in the new environment.

What should business owners do if they suspect they are a victim of fraud?

If you believe you are the victim of fraud, immediately file a report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (ww.ic3.gov).

 

Want more information about how to protect your business from fraud? Join us April 10 for a webinar with SSA Milan R. Kosanovich, FBI Cleveland, to learn how to protect your business from the new types of fraud that are emerging during the coronavirus pandemic.

Share
  • Email
  • Next up: Ransomware Update
  • More in Operations
  • Ransomware Update

    Ransomware continues to grow and email is one of the most often used vehicles to infect a computer or a network with ransomware. Cybercriminals that send ransomware emails are expanding their targets to include email addresses such as hr@, hrdept@, info@, sales@ and other similar alias email addresses. They know that an alias address usually forwards to others in the business and in most cases, they forward to many others. As an example, it is not unusual for an email addressed to info@xyzcompany.com to be forwarded to many people in the organization so that the message is not missed.

    When targeting these alias addresses the cybercriminals are playing the numbers game. They send one email to an alias address, it is then forwarded to many people inside the organization in hopes that one person will open the email and then click on the enclosed link or attachment that launches the ransomware virus.

    In particular, they are targeting addresses such as hr@, hrdepart@, hrdepartment@ and similar addresses since HR Departments routinely receive emails from people they do not know and the emails often contain attachments such as resumes and employment applications which are routinely opened. HR staff receive an email from an unknown applicant and the email contains a malicious document disguised as a resume. When they click on the resume, the ransomware virus launches.

    In order to protect the organization, companies must employ data backup that protects valuable company information. However, simple backup is not sufficient. The backup must be configured in a such a manner that it is protected and hidden from the ransomware virus. In addition, companies should deploy high quality business class anti-virus and email spam filtering. Finally, and equally important, they need to educate all their employees to the dangers of ransomware and what to look for prior to opening an email or clicking on an attachment of an imbedded link.

    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: Reduce Your Interest Rate on Energy Projects
  • More in Operations
  • Reduce Your Interest Rate on Energy Projects

    Financing your energy efficiency project just got a lot easier. The Greater Cleveland Partnership and Council of Smaller Enterprises have created an Interest Rate Reduction Program for efficiency and renewable energy initiatives, working directly with KeyBank. The program allows businesses to reduce the interest rate on these projects by up to 4.25%.

    Financing your energy efficiency project just got a lot easier.

    The Greater Cleveland Partnership and Council of Smaller Enterprises have created an Interest Rate Reduction Program for efficiency and renewable energy initiatives, working directly with KeyBank. The program allows businesses to reduce the interest rate on these projects by up to 4.25%. 

    Rate reduction details

    How does it work? Businesses can obtain a minimum 1% rate reduction from projects that yield 15% in annual energy savings. The opportunity exists for further rate reduction from greater energy savings:

    • 15% to 20%: A 1% reduction applied to the loan (total of 2%)
    • 21% to 30%: A 1.5% reduction applied to the loan (total of 2.5%)
    • 31% to 50%: A 2% reduction applied to the loan (total of 3%)

    Businesses that implement more than one energy conservation measure are eligible to receive an additional 0.5% rate reduction. Also, use of a COSE Energy Contractor means the business can shave another 0.5% off the rate. And lastly, if green lease principles are integrated, another 0.25% will be taken off the rate.

    To qualify for a rate reduction, you must be a FirstEnergy customer and you must also be a GCP/COSE member for the term of the loan. Loan terms are 24, 36, 48, 60 and 72 months. The final interest rate on the loan will not be lower than 2%. Terms are subject to change.

    Project examples

    A myriad of projects are eligible for the Interest Rate Reduction Program, including:

    • Mechanical systems and components, including HVAC
    • HVAC controls/advanced thermostats
    • Lighting and lighting controls
    • Doors and windows
    • Refrigeration upgrades
    • Advanced energy projects

    How to apply

    Applying for a reduction in your interest rate can be done in five easy steps.

    STEP 1: Go to cose.org/energyloanapp.

    STEP 2: Complete the Interest Rate Reduction application, where you provide information about your project.

    STEP 3: A referral is made to KeyBank for the loan application.

    STEP 4: Loan approval and rate reduction is confirmed by KeyBank within two or three days.

    STEP 5: Get started on your project and begin saving on energy costs. The loan is paid back via your energy savings earned each month.

    Learn about additional opportunities to bring energy savings to your business through rebates and incentives, energy assessments and a network of local, vetted contractors. Questions? Contact the GCP/COSE Energy Team at 216-592-2205 or via email at energy@gcpartnership.com.

    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: COVID-19 Recovery: Re-imagining workplaces and workplace strategy
  • More in Operations
  • COVID-19 Recovery: Re-imagining workplaces and workplace strategy

    In a recent GCP webinar, experts from Vocon explored re-imagining the workplace for health, safety and productivity in the "new normal."

    As Ohio returns to work, businesses are grappling with social distancing and sanitization and keeping workers safe and healthy.

    What does that mean for workplaces, both in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis and in the future? How do you rethink workplace strategy? Watch the webinar for answers to these questions and more! 


    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: Reopening Strategies from Northeast Ohio's Top Hospitals
  • More in Operations
  • Reopening Strategies from Northeast Ohio's Top Hospitals

    Explore reopening strategies that will ensure the health and safety of your employees, customers, and their families.

    In a recent webinar, we were joined by experts from Northeast Ohio’s leading medical institutions who discussed testing, safety for employees, and epidemiology. They discussed how health systems are working together to provide services and support to the business community.

    Watch the webinar below:

     

    LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This presentation was intended for informational and educational purposes only. This information should not be used as a replacement for medical or legal advice. Schools and employers are solely responsible for complying with all applicable legal requirements and making decisions regarding their operations, students, and employees based on their individual circumstances. Although this content was reviewed and approved by healthcare professionals, UH, Cleveland Clinic and MetroHealth do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any of this information or that it represents the most up-to-date information and UH, Cleveland Clinic and MetroHealth are not responsible for any errors or omissions or actions taken in reliance or from use of such information.

    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: Rise of the Bots: What You Need to Know
  • More in Operations
  • Rise of the Bots: What You Need to Know

    Last month COSE delved into the ins and outs of chatbots and how to best go about using them to grow your business. Check out the highlights and scroll to the bottom to view the full presentation.

    Ryan Gialames, director of product design at Robots & Pencils, joined a COSE WebEd Series webinar and provided a thorough discussion of chatbots, including a step-by-step process for getting your business started using this newer tool.

    What is it and why should you use it?

    So what is a chatbot? A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, primarily over the internet. Chatbots are often powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. Because of the popularity of messaging platforms, like Facebook Messenger, chatbots are becoming even more effective and accessible. Adoption of chatbots is rising and, according to Gialames, billions is predicted in annual saving thanks to the creation of chatbots.

    The average employee spends 1.8 hours per day searching for information. Bots can help solve that problem by making the information more readily available for your employees.

    Examples of bots

    Gialames gave several examples of industries that are using bots. While most industries are implementing bots within the area of customer support, many are thinking outside the box and using bots in more creative ways.

    Bot example no. 1: Retail. A bot can be used in the retail industry to provide a consumer with a virtual stylist, which is something the company Levi’s has implemented recently. This is a great way for a user to find out about products and for companies to find out about their customers. The carousel feature with revolving images makes it easy for consumers to find what they’re looking for and have it all at their fingertips.

    Bot example no. 2: Travel. R&P Airlines is using chatbots to help their consumers easily find flights and book on the spot. Hotels are using bots to help fill guests’ needs, such as asking housekeeping for extra towels or the concierge for advice.

    Bot example no. 3: Banking. Varo is a non-brick-and-mortar bank that targets millennials by featuring bots that live inside their app. These bots help consumers manage spending habits and set goals, and provide the opportunity for the company to help engineer its customers’ behaviors.

    Bot example no. 4: Education. Schools can use bots to welcome each and every student, and can feature animated gifs or videos to engage students. Bots can be implemented to reach out to students and nudge them along in the necessary processes, navigate financial aid and more.

    Bot example no. 5: Customer service. According to Gialames, 67% of consumers worldwide have used a bot for support. The options in this capacity are endless and can range from answering quick questions to more complex information sharing and troubleshooting. Instead of having customer service agents constantly answer the same question over and over again, bots can be used to make time with customers more valuable and pass off questions to the appropriate support person when necessary.

    Gialames presented the following 10 principles of chatbots that should be present in order to make your bot appear friendlier and personable, and less, well, robotic. According to Gialames, a personal chatbot should always be:

    Polite – if it doesn’t know the answer, the bot should be apologetic and should never make the consumer feel dumb;

    Intuitive – conversations shouldn’t feel confusing and messaging should always be structured;

    Empowering – give the user the ability to communicate preferences and choices whenever possible.

    Flatter the user by saying things like “that’s a great choice,” etc;

    On my team – chatbot should convey how they are in alliance with the consumer’s goals;

    Reflective – the chatbot should reflect on the consumer’s current state, emphasizing how their feelings are understood and matched;

    Cultivating curiosity – the bot should be interested in the consumer, and should have a way of bribing the consumer to move forward in the process or with the company;

    Humorous – chatbots should be playful and pleasant, conveying a personal voice. If the bot has to place the consumer “on hold” while searching for information, program the bot to make a joke while waiting;

    Actionable – a chatbot should make it obvious what job it’s designed to handle; and

    Trustworthy – when the chatbot reliably delivers what a consumer wants, not only does the consumer’s trust in the chatbot grow but in the company itself.

    Getting started

    So, what’s the best way to go about getting started in implementing chatbots? Gialames suggests starting off with an experiment. Limit the scope of your experiment so that it’s not overwhelming, but make sure that it’s still meaningful. If you do want to dive right in and create an actual bot with real outcomes, start off by using just a couple of features relative to your consumers before moving forward with an implementation of a more extensive bot.

    He suggests implementing the following chatbot rollout schedule.

    Rollout phase 1: Launch and learn. In this stage a company should define use cases and campaigns, as well as design and create the context and tone of the bot. Where you would normally think about what your company looks like (logos, colors, etc), in this case you’ll be considering what your company sounds like. What kind of voice will your bot give to your company?  

    Rollout phase 2: Add scale. Here is where a company should conduct an analysis of opportunities based on the initial release of the bot and modify conversations based on these learnings. You can then incorporate additional data and content based on user feedback and new content sources.

    Rollout phase 3: Extend. So you have your base chatbot, now it’s time to extend the functionality to additional platforms. Here you’ll design and build additional interactions and content based on available platform capabilities, and most likely integrate other systems.

    While early chatbot experiences didn’t necessarily match up to the hype—most likely due to a poor understanding of their capabilities and improper usage—the slope is rising. Better use is evolving and industries are harnessing the power of chatbots. Tools are getting better and finding their way into the right hands with companies coming up with creative ways to use them. If you believe the return on investment for a chatbot could be in your favor, become an early adopter and begin incorporating bots into your experiences today.

    The full recap of this webinar can be viewed below. Also, be sure to head over to COSE’s Events Page to discover other upcoming events that can help your business grow.


    Share
  • Email
  • More in Operations