TRANSCRIPT: Ombudsman’s guide for small business – using social media securely

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson interview with Gary Adshead.

Radio 6PR Perth

Subject: Ombudsman’s guide for small business – using social media securely

Gary Adshead

There’s a new guide going out in relation to businesses using social media and trying to use it securely and properly. Bruce Billson is the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, and he joins me now. G’day Bruce.

Bruce Billson

Gary, fab to be with you and your listeners?

Gary Adshead

Can you tell whether it’s a major, growing trend and whether the reason is it’s just cheaper in terms of using a social media platform than building your own website?

Bruce Billson

I can and I can share it just with you, Gary, and your Perth listeners. It is a growing trend because a lot of businesses their digital presence is their channel to the marketplace. This is a great way of engaging with a lot of eyeballs you probably wouldn’t otherwise be able to connect with. It’s an aggregation place where people come looking for a range of opportunities. And for you and I, if we were to start a business, it’s a way of getting into business without necessarily having the expense and the tail risk of a commercial lease and a bricks and mortar type operation.

So, it’s very, very attractive. Lots of people have this as an early-stage business strategy or even, dare I use the phrase, a side hustle. It can be quite lucrative, but it’s also quite hazardous. We’ve seen a doubling in the number of businesses that have had a problem with those very same digital platforms. So, they’re opening up new opportunities, new markets, new potential, but they’re not without their hazards. And that’s what we’re trying to help people steer away from.

Gary Adshead

And those hazards, is it around the social media platform itself perhaps might be easier to intercept than a website, in terms of those people that want to hack and want to get their clients details or want to upset the business?

Bruce Billson

Yeah, it’s that kind of thing where those platforms have quite a sophisticated back end, which is the business of the platform Gary. So, imagine you and I, we’ve got a presence. We want to put a series of ads out. It’s connected up to our place where we can buy and sell and engage with our service. But it then feeds into some other part of that platform where it might be an ad spend about targeted placement of our message. And connected to that can be our account details for a credit card and then maybe even a gateway into other linked accounts that if someone can get into one part of that system, they may be able to cause havoc in other parts of the system.

And then you and I as a person relying on that channel to do our business, sits there and sees our business going down the drain. In some cases, bad experiences, even a change to the website itself. And in other cases that we’ve seen people using the advertising linked accounts to drain those accounts to promote something else or to even do something quite malicious to our own accounts.

So that’s where things go badly, Gary, and then the frustration just gets worse. The websites say, hey, get into your account to tell us that you can’t get into your account. You can imagine that’s the ultimate run around.

Gary Adshead

That has happened to me. Do you have a view that consumers are more wary of the Facebook or the other platform social media sites, rather than an actual structured website. Do you have a view on that?

Bruce Billson

I think they could be. I’ll give you an example, and I’m probably outing myself here. I was traveling back from a conference in Tasmania sitting on the tarmac, and I saw on one of these platforms a product that would take a little scratch out of the duco of your car’s paintwork. I thought that looks alright. I’m a bit car proud. So, I went through the social media channel and tapped in and thought I was doing quite well, making that purchase. The following morning I’m out mowing the lawn and I get a call from my bank saying, Bruce, we’ve blocked this payment. Do you know who they are? I said, they seem to be a UK-based provider. They said, they might try and sell you stuff, but they sell the details of the financial information you provided to someone else to hack you. So, they’ve shut down the show.

That’s a thing to be alert to. And that’s also why these integrated platforms are so attractive for hackers wanting to do nefarious things.

Gary Adshead

Alright, so you’ve come up with a guide, some sort of structure of what you can do that gives you the best chance If you’re setting up one of these sites on a platform. What’s your top tips?

Bruce Billson

Well, top tips are probably don’t go the hamburger with the lot. Create a profile that’s got privacy settings and control and management settings that you’re comfortable with and you can actually take charge of. Take out profiles or other connections which you just don’t need because they can often be that that gateway that people could use to gain access to your page.

Make sure you can actually control what you’re doing. In the event that someone else gets in there, you’ve still got control and it’s about turning ads on and off. And I do this myself, Gary. I’ve got a credit card that’s got a pretty low balance on it, which I use exclusively for transactions that are online. So, if someone does tap into it, they can only do so much damage. And if I was selling through one of these platforms and I had a linked credit card for advertising expenditure, I do the same thing. I’d have one that didn’t have a behemoth credit limit on it. I’d have it quite low knowing that if something went wrong, you can shut that down quite quickly. Even keeping to one side, the details of your you are URL and your account details. And even having it recognise that you’re on a mobile phone so that if your account’s locked down, you can at least use that other channel, your mobile phone, that’s recognised by the platforms to try and seek a resolution.

And if that doesn’t happen and you’re a small family business and you’re seeing your business compromised by this and you’re getting no help from the platforms, reach out for us and we can possibly help.

Gary Adshead

That’s actually a real point, isn’t it, that it’s very difficult to find – even though Meta have got offices here – it’s actually pretty difficult to get through to someone, particularly if this is an emergency.

Bruce Billson

It is incredibly difficult. And what we’ve said to Meta and the other platforms is that you need to have decent internal dispute resolution mechanisms, decent support, like here’s a novel idea, Gary, how about a human someone can talk to you? Here’s an idea maybe that might take off, and when we deal with them, we sort of say, Look, we definitely want someone who’s got the authority to fix some of these problems. Some of them we can get sorted out quite quickly. But even with the relationship we work hard to build so that small and family businesses can get support from us. Even at times, it can still take weeks. Think of it in a real retail sense, that’s weeks that your door’s not open, you’re not engaging with your customers and that can be really damaging to your business as well.

Gary Adshead

And I’m not trying to sort of put a damper on people who want to use these platforms for their business, but we have examples and we spoke last week to someone who through their own Facebook marketplace. People are basically knocking on their door asking for the product that they bought and the person’s going, dunno what you’re talking about. And it’s because of this whole fraudulent nature that Facebook Marketplace.

The person I spoke to last week, a former minister in the in the government here who found that he was getting knocks on the door because he thought he was being used. He can’t get anything done through Meta. He can’t get any resolution to it. He’s just got to put a sign on his gate saying it’s not me, I’m not selling well.

Bruce Billson

And Gary, we’ve said to these platforms, you need to do better otherwise lawmakers will regulate. And you end up with it with a whole lot of challenges and obligations and duties you might not want. But if you want to, you want to try and minimize that prospect, do better, do better. I mean, we’ve even seen examples where you’ve got businesses interacting well, and these platforms, you know, aspire to look after customers. But this isn’t the way of looking after customers. And that’s why we’re urging these platforms to step up and do better themselves. And that way if people do get half a chance to sort these things out and still can’t, we can step in and try and be of assistance and that’s what we’re doing. Those cases have doubled in the last year and we expect to see that trajectory continue.

Gary Adshead

If push comes to shove and someone set up a business through a platform and suddenly people have lost money on it, who’s liable? If it’s the platform itself that was too easily hacked in that instance? I mean, it is it you as a business person to have to pay up or do you have to go to Meta and say, look, this is through no fault of my own, and good luck trying to get them to deal with it.

Bruce Billson

This is precisely what the Parliament’s navigating right now. Who is accountable? Where do those responsibilities sit? Are the platforms doing enough?

Well, let’s do a real life parallel. If you are managing a shopping centre and there were shops in your shopping centre, what type of conduct would you permit to happen? You’ve got some accountability for trade and commerce in that space that you govern and you manage. Now, the argument is the same should apply to these digital platforms.

And even in some areas Gary, which your listeners need to be alert to, particularly small and family businesses that are relying on these platforms, even the capacity to do a recharge back to a credit card? There is a new scam happening and it’s happening with customers sort of saying, look, I’ve just bought this valuable item off a website that you host as part of your digital platform. I don’t think it’s being delivered. I want my money back. And then people are actually claiming, falsely, that the material wasn’t delivered and the poor old business is faced with, hang on, I’ve got all the documentation saying it was delivered, you should at least check this out before you unilaterally take some dough back that I’ve been paid for the product that I’ve delivered when you’re actually being stooged about that.

So, it’s another thing to watch out for.

For your listeners, make sure you’ve got some way of validating delivery and fulfillment. Otherwise that represents another risk to small and family businesses relying on these platforms.

Gary Adshead

It’s funny because I went to a online platform not long ago to buy something in particular. It never came. It was, I don’t know, two and a half months. I rang them and eventually said, Look, just give me my money back because it’s not coming. They went alright. It turned up yesterday.

Bruce Billson

You might be my case study.

Gary Adshead

They did say if it does happen to turn up, well, good luck to you and so be it. So, they’re pretty straight up and down. So now I’ve got two of the same thing.

Bruce Billson

Well, let me check on that chargeback. When I’m giving those stories, I might need to say a customer – let’s call him Gary.

Gary Adshead

Alright, if people want to know about how to set up some safety tips and be secure on their digital platforms through these particular platforms that they should be going to your website.

It’s A, S for Sam, B for Bob, F for Fremantle, E for elephant, O dot gov dot au forward slash SM-securely. (www.asbfeo.gov.au/sm-securely) I really appreciate you coming on Bruce.

Bruce Billson

Happy to chat Gary. Best wishes to you and your listeners.

Gary Adshead

Bruce Billson there, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.

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