The Role of Employee Training in Scam Prevention

When it comes to protecting your business from fraud, an old aphorism illustrates a central truth: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Businesses find themselves operating in an increasingly dangerous digital landscape. Cybercrime is on the rise (a natural consequence of an exploding digital economy and the popularity of remote work environments), and organizations large and small are more frequently getting targeted by bad actors from within and without.

From garden-variety phishing tactics that still retain their effectiveness to quiet misappropriation of funds, businesses are fighting a multiple-front war against malicious entities; and the sad truth is that small businesses are disproportionately vulnerable, as they have less resources to dedicate to cybersecurity infrastructure.

Their first line of defense? Frontline employees



Employees: your first line of defense against bad actors

Employees are, in many ways, gatekeepers against fraud; the first ones to detect it when it occurs internally, and the ones who, through negligence, can allow it to succeed from without. The popularity of phishing attacks largely results from the latter, as employees who haven’t been educated in scam tactics will often accidentally allow third parties access to company data.

Likewise, fraud is often allowed to persist when it goes unchallenged. Clearly defining a fraud policy helps set expectations for how employees are to act when suspecting fraud. Yet, without a culture of awareness that encourages them to speak up, employees may feel as though they aren’t safe to take action.

As such, you must rely on your employees to be vigilant, honest, and aware of the most common scam tactics. They must be ready and willing to report when something seems suspicious, and unlikely to be caught off guard when met with a challenge from the average scammers’ playbook. This is especially true of remote work employees who operate outside the confines of the typical office environment, as less direct supervision may result in a higher degree of risk.

However, securing that degree of employee knowledge and engagement will require you to invest in your team’s development. As we go, we’ll explore the importance of training your employees to be active fraud detectors and outline a few key strategies to increase awareness and drive employee participation.

Education: require mandatory training

Firstly, we must consider the value-add of formalized fraud and scam detection training programs. Mandatory fraud training serves to make employees aware of your company’s fraud policy and empowers them to recognize the patterns of fraudsters. Likewise, scam training educates employees on a wide variety of common scam tactics, such as phishing, social engineering, and robocalls.

Both forms of training also typically teach best practices for data storage, retrieval, and secure document disposal, ensuring that however your employees engage with your data, they’re keeping it (and your company) safe.

In essence, mandatory training equips your employees with the tools they need to recognize the warning signs of malicious activity. It’s the first step in empowering your employees to see wrongdoing and take action – without it, employees are more likely to accidentally release sensitive information. 

Additionally, mandatory training creates a sense of accountability and responsibility among team members. When expectations are communicated clearly and there’s a clear process to follow when suspicious activity is detected, employees know what’s expected of them. They know how they’re to go about resolving their concerns. While education must be ongoing (as threats evolve over time), you can confidently assert that when an employee completes training and acknowledges policy they will hold themselves to your standard.

Finally, training has been known to have a host of other benefits, including establishing a more cohesive, involved company culture. To secure active employee engagement in identifying fraud and cybercrime, you’ll need them to feel like a part of the team – and training can help provide that sense of company identity and responsibility that may drive your employees to act ethically.

Awareness: share case studies

However, training has its limits, and employees may feel disconnected from the material if they don’t have a practical understanding of the potential consequences. Sharing case studies is one of the best ways to impart the seriousness of a lack of vigilance to employees without them experiencing the consequences firsthand.

By sharing resources such as phishing case studies with your employees, you familiarize them with common scam tactics, allowing them to proactively identify similar occurrences in their workplace. For some employees, examining prior cases can help them tie theory into practice, more concretely illustrating how scammers and fraudsters operate. In this way, you’ll be better insulating your team against such attacks by catering to the different learning styles of your staff.

You also — and this is important — tie a very real, very massive dollar amount to each incident. This underscores the severity of a failure to remain vigilant, especially given that these often large amounts of money are lost as a result of a minor mistake. It won’t be hard for your employees to picture themselves in a similar situation, or to strive to avoid making the same mistakes.

Conclusion: create a culture of speaking up

Finally, the key to this whole initiative is creating an environment where employees are encouraged to speak up; one where they feel safe to step forward if they see anything suspect, whether internal or external. Create channels where your employees can safely report their suspicions to upper management, and promote a culture of transparency and activism. Encourage employees to adopt a “better safe than sorry” mindset, and empower them to proactively flag and report potential threats. Armed with the education to identify threats, the awareness of the potential consequences, and the power to speak up, your employees will be able to hold the gates against any threat that comes your way.

Featured image by Unsplash

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