Are you aware of the most common security issues and risks that affect small businesses?

In the lead up to Christmas and school holidays, following these tips could help to reduce the risk of your business being stung by a scam or shoplifters.

Increase in counterfeit notes

Counterfeit money can often creep into circulation during holiday periods. If your business accepts cash payments, read our 8 tips to help you spot fake banknotes to discover the common flaws in counterfeit notes so you can be on the lookout.

Remember, as a business owner, you’re within your rights to refuse to accept money that you believe may be counterfeit.


WA Police report that there is often a rise in shoplifting during busy periods. While some level of theft is inevitable, you can implement a variety of easy techniques to minimise its impact on your business

The design and layout of your business can play a part in deterring shoplifters. This could include:

  • Keeping your business visible from the outside by making sure windows are not covered with marketing materials, inside aisles should be uncluttered and shelves at a level where you can see what customers are doing.
  • Using visual deterrents such as security cameras and mirrors and advertise their existence with signage inside and outside your business.
  • Marking your business equipment with identification numbers.
  • Installing proper lighting both inside and outside.
  • Carefully considering the placement of your cash register and point of sale material and consider keeping it away from entrances and exits.
  • Keeping small or expensive items in locked cabinets.

Bag searches

If you’d like the option to carry out bag searches where appropriate, you’ll need to have a sign stating that bags may be checked as a condition of entry. This sign needs to be clearly displayed and visible to customers before they enter your business.

If you have this signage in place, customers who have entered your store have accepted your right to search their shopping bags as a condition of entry.

If a shopper refuses to allow you to search their bags, you can:

  • ask them to leave your store
  • refuse to sell them products
  • call the police if you suspect they have stolen from your business.

Resist naming and shaming

As tempting as it may be to share footage of shoplifters on social media or display photos of them in your business, in the hope of them being identified, doing so could cause you problems.

If an offender is being dealt with criminally, but their photograph is still on display (either physically or online), the offender could claim they are being victimised. While this doesn’t have any criminal repercussions, the offender could take civil action against you.

Scams to watch out for

Unfortunately, there are a number of scams targeting small business owners. Some of the common ones include:

  • ‘Man-in-the middle’ - this involves unusual requests from suppliers such as being contacted to make payment to a new bank account.
  • Fake invoices - generally involving phishing emails to collect your personal and payment information.
  • Overpayment - when you are overpaid for goods or services and the scammer requests you to refund the difference.

Refunds and replacements

With Christmas and school holidays approaching, it’s also a good time to remind yourself of the rules around refunds and replacements. Under Australian Consumer Law, you’re unable to display a ‘no refund’ sign or say ‘no refunds on sale items’ and there are particular rules around repairs and replacements.

Cyber security

In addition to monitoring the physical security of your business, there are a number of online threats to also be aware of. To help safeguard your business, read our cyber security tips for small business and tips on how to protect your business from scammers.

More information

Visit the WA Police website to access a range of fact sheets to help you protect your business. This includes information on becoming part of their Business Watch program, a community-based business network linked to the successful Neighbourhood Watch. The philosophy of Business Watch is to take control of what happens in your business community and reduce the opportunity for crime to occur.

Business premises
Legal and risk
10 November 2020