Small business owners operate in an online world of opportunities \u2014 and threats. Those dangers are the effect of fraudsters, thieves, hackers and bots with a singular mission: To deceive customers, thereby depriving a company of a sale, while reaping the rewards of their own game of misdirection and corruption.\nOn the one hand, we already know about the issue of fraud \u2014 we understand its existence and proliferation throughout the web. But on the other, we are less familiar with its consequences for small business owners and independent retailers.\nIt is one thing to safeguard our credit card and checking accounts, in addition to taking precautions to lessen the probability of identity theft, or various Ponzi schemes or sundry forms of entrapment.\nIt is something else to be aware of, and to have a solution against, fraud that disproportionately strikes at the heart of our economy. For example: Imagine the cumulative result of a series of petty thefts \u2014 a series of interrupted transactions \u2014 where a shopper goes to one site, and, unbeknownst to that person, buys a product from another site. These acts of fraud are so convincing, and the incremental nature of the deception is so subtle, that few if any customers or small business owners realize they are victims of such elaborate charades.\nAnd yet, by stealing a handful of cents per transaction here \u2014 or even a few dollars per purchase there \u2014 the overall number is in the billions. Translation: Small business owners often do not have the means to retaliate, leaving them vulnerable to losses or insolvency.\n\u201cWe recognize that identity theft and unlawful debt collection practices continue to cause significant harm to many consumers,\u201d says Jessica Rich, director of the of the Federal Trade Commission\u2019s (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection.\n\n\nUS Attorney Wifredo Ferrer announces federal prosecution of more than 80 identity theft cases in SoFLo. @wsvn pic.twitter.com\/La79Jlys5T\n\u2014 Jessica Holly (@JhollyW) January 31, 2017\n\n\n\u00a0\u201cSteps like the recent upgrade to IdentityTheft.gov and our leadership of a nationwide initiative to combat unlawful debt collection practices are critical to our ongoing work to protect consumers from these harms,\u201d Rich adds.\nAdam Rogas, co-founder and CEO of NS8, a company that offers a collection of tools designed to prevent fraud, says:\n\n\u201cOnline threats originate from a multitude of sources, representing a global problem of profound financial consequences. These acts of fraud undermine the credibility of hardworking small business owners, while incremental thefts become monumental in size. The best way to deter these attacks is through on-the-ground monitoring and review of every purported customer.\u201d\n\nRogas further explains that an ever-growing amount of web traffic comes from bots, spiders, extensions, headless browsers, toolbars and other actors. The increasing sophistication of the ways these bots disguise themselves requires continuous \u2014 and constantly evolving \u2014 means of detection.\nBear in mind, too, that the more money small business owners must spend \u2014 unsuccessfully \u2014 on conventional methods of detection, the less money they have for marketing and advertising. With the average amount ($10,000) independent retailers devote to promotions \u2014 both online and offline \u2014 the more difficult it becomes to maintain that figure and repel fraudsters. In other words, marketing budgets dissolve in the effort to wage war against fraud.\nIf fraudsters continue with their tactics of misdirection, if they expand the number and frequency of their duplicitous transactions, then small business owners will soon find themselves personally bereft and professionally bankrupt.\nWe must confront the severity of this matter, because we must do everything possible to end this threat.\nSmall business owners do not deserve to endure more of this economic pain, and consumers should not have to suffer more of this financial hardship.\nNow is our summons to stop fraud.