There is no shortage of criminals looking to take advantage of anyone. Small businesses are especially vulnerable to fraudulent acts and scams that are designed carefully. With advances in technology, criminals are also become more advanced and more creative. Telephone, email and other computer applications are now at the center of scams involving small businesses.

Telephone Scams. Criminals like to use the telephone to collect pertinent information about small businesses. One such scam involves a representative (criminal) who calls and asks a small business to "update" their information for an online directory, such as the yellow pages. The representative will use careful language that is actually designed to rope the small business into an agreement for an online listing service. The business will then be charged a fee for the "service." To not fall victim to this scam, avoid giving out business information or dealing with suspicious individuals over the phone. If you are unsure of the "company" or the "representative," chances are that it is a telephone scam.

Email Scams. Since email has become the preferred method of communication, it has also become the preferred method of working for con artists and criminals. There are a variety of different ways that scammers will try to collect personal and business information via email. An email scam that has a goal of obtaining personal information is known as phishing, and there are many creative ways to accomplish this scam. For example, you might receive an email from what looks like your business credit card company, informing you of some changes to your account. If the scam is well-developed, it might even look like the email was sent from a major financial institution like Bank of America or Chase. The email will ask you to provide pertinent information, such as addresses, account numbers or passwords. This is a total scam, as your financial institution would never ask for such information via email. If you have any doubts, call your bank or financial institution directly.

IRS Scams. Tax season is especially stressful for small business owners. Criminals take advantage of the added stress and pressure by developing scams that are specifically related to the IRS and taxes. This is typically done through phone or email contact by individuals claiming to be the IRS. Sometimes the scams come complete with documents bearing the official IRS logo. IRS scams are typically designed to steal identities. Stay updated by visiting the real IRS' website that provides information on the most recent scams.

Criminals will continue to get smarter and more creative; therefore, it's important to exercise caution and awareness at all times. Protect your personal and business information. If you are suspicious, don't be afraid to do some investigating on your own. Chances are that a few questions will lead you to the right answer and reveal fraudulent activity.