As a business owner, it's your responsibility to do everything within your means to limit risk and keep the business running smoothly. Scammers will often try to take advantage of you or your employees. What is the best way to protect your business from these scammers? BBB offers warning signs from common scams that target small to medium-sized businesses.
Scammers may contact your business asking you or your employees to “confirm” or “verify” your company's contact information for their business directory. Scammers often use similar sounding names like “Yellow Pages” to make you think the directory listing is legitimate. In reality the directory does not exist and the likelihood the company actually exist is slim.
Often the employees who answer the phone aren’t trained to recognize these scams. Employees are tricked into providing a listing and saying “yes.”
The scammers then follow up by sending your business an invoice for your directory listing. When you try to dispute the invoice, the scammers will playback a recording of your employee saying yes, as “proof” that they agreed to pay for this listing. If you don’t pay this invoice scammers send more invoices, collection notices, and calls threatening to ruin your businesses credit.
Scammers will bombard your business with phony letters, emails, and bills. If you get a bill in the mail saying that your web address/domain is about to expire, don't panic. The “invoice” stresses that that if you don’t pay the bill immediately your website will be shut down. Some business pay first and ask questions later. Carefully read all invoices and channel all invoices through one department so your business can make sure the invoices you pay are legitimate.
Other invoice scams include: advertising listings, memberships, trademark, or bills for goods you would normally use.
What would you do if your company's power, gas, or phones shut off unexpectedly? Scammers feed off our emotions so we become more vulnerable to scams. You may get a call or letter from your utility company claiming that your account is delinquent. Scammers will tell you that if you don’t pay immediately your utilities will be shut off. When in doubt, find a legitimate phone number to call the utility company and confirm the notice. You don’t want to rely on the number the caller gives you. Scammers may also “spoof” the number to make it look likes it coming from the utility company in your area. The power company will never call demanding payment via prepaid debit card. They will send a written notice first.
Office Supply Scam
Every businesses need some sort of office supplies. But, not all offices have a formal procedure for processing orders. When supplies show up at the office, employees often OK or pay for the order without really checking. The orders delivered to the office may contain more products than you ordered. Even worse the boxes may contain no supplies at all. The scammer may call asking to verify the order, tricking the employees into saying yes. Your business may then get threatening calls demanding payment for the supplies. If you refuse to pay they caller present the verification your employee provided. Don’t pay for products or services you have not ordered. Compile a list of approved vendors you get deliveries from, create a formal procedure for deliveries, inspect invoices, and train staff.
Scammers will try every way to try to trick you into giving them money. Sometimes scammers will send your business a check in the mail that looks like a refund or a rebate check. Be cautious and read the fine print on the back of the check. By cashing the check you may be agreeing to be billed for something you don’t want or need. A similar fake check scam occurs when the scammer acts as the buyer. They convince you that they overpaid for the products that they ordered. They ask you to deposit the check and wire them the difference. You might be able to cash their check right away, but it can take weeks for the bank to determine the check is a fake. Now you are out of the money you sent the “customer” and are stuck with the fees associated with cashing a fake check.