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BETTER business

C rooks are constantly dreaming up new ways to scam your business

Business owners have a lot of responsibilities to manage. Unfortunately, avoiding scams is on that list.

Business owners have a lot of responsibilities to manage. Unfortunately, avoiding scams is on that list. I’ve written in-depth before on some of the following scams that target businesses, so they may seem familiar. Familiarity in this case is a good thing — better to know them before someone tries to scam you. You may even consider sharing this list with your employees as a proactive training step and to hopefully avoid a costly situation.

Erin T. Dodge

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I November 2015

Unordered supply

A box of supplies arrives with an invoice attached. Because the goods are in hand, someone pays the invoice and doesn’t think twice about it. But what if no one ordered the supplies in the first place? Every business needs supplies. Scammers take advantage of businesses without a formal purchasing process. To avoid this, designate one person to order all supplies that way you’ll know if someone is trying to get paid for something you didn’t order.

Directory listing scam

The scam starts when you receive a call asking you to verify your business name, phone number and location for an online or locally printed directory. The directory doesn’t exist, but the con artist records the conversation, manipulates the recording and then uses it as “proof” that money is owed. Urgent invoices are sent. Harassing phone calls are made, sometimes a dozen within a few hours and for days at a time. Sometimes those threats turn to sweet talk for discounted payoff deals. This scam may also come your way by fax, mail or email. To avoid it, keep accurate records on all advertising and directory listing purchases and agreements. Don’t let threats intimidate you into paying for something you didn’t agree to purchase.

Invoice look-a-like

Erin T. Dodge, is an editor for the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho and Montana in Spokane. Contact the bureau at spokane.bbb.org.

them up, then you are likely deal- when you get an email notice you can check to see if it lines up ing with fraud. with your records.

Scammers send advertisements and solicitations that look like invoices in order to trip up your accounts payable department. Such look-alikes are supposed to clearly state that they are not an invoice or bill. However, scammers ignore the law.

Courtesy photo Overpayment scam A customer sends you a In becoming familiar with the kinds of scams people commit, people are less likely to check for goods or services but fall for them.

To avoid this scam, designate exactly who will handle invoices and make sure they are keep vigilant records of all accounts and are able to sleuth out fake invoices from real ones.

Rebate/refund check

Some solicitations look like rebate or refund checks. What the fine print may or may not clearly state is that by depositing the check you are signing up for a subscription to a service. This means that soon you will start receiving invoices for a service that your company doesn’t want or need. To avoid this one, make sure you read the fine print carefully before depositing an unexpected check. Also, your accounts receivable records should link all checks and payments to an account. If you don’t have an account in your records that matches with a check, it is time

BBB consumer complaint scam

You receive an official-looking email saying that a consumer complaint has been filed with BBB against your company. But the email is a fake. If you click the link or open the file attachment, malware or spyware will load on your computer, allowing the hacker to gain access to you business financial information or to consumer information that they can exploit. To avoid scams like this one, never open email attachments from any unexpected emails.

Charity scam

Like many businesses, you probably support local charities to do some digging. and causes that are meaningful to you and your customers. ScamPrepaid shipping scam mers posing as firefighters, police, Scammers target businesses veterans or youth sport groups that sell heavy or large goods ask companies to sponsor their with the prepaid shipping scam. cause, in return for getting sponThe scammer asks that you use sorship ad space in a calendar, their preferred shipping comprogram or on T-shirts. pany to deliver the goods. They Before writing that check pay with a stolen credit card to charity, you can search for that will go through successfully charities by name at give.org and because it hasn’t been reported URL expiration scam charitywatch.org. To learn more stolen yet. An urgent email shows up about charitable giving, including Once the card issuer catches stating that your company’s hiring a fundraiser, check out up to the fact that the card is domain name is about to expire the FTC’s Charity Scams page at stolen, liability for the credit card and you need to pay the renewal http://1.usa.gov/1jocHmJ. shifts to your company whenever fee right away in order to keep To keep your business safe the card is not present for the your website address. Your web- from scams, you have a lot to be sale. site is a vital company asset, so wary of. Even the best of us get To avoid this scam, never you may be inclined to click and tripped up by con artists and agree to use a customer’s shippay right away. But that email tricksters. If you believe your ping service, especially if it is one may be a scammer and not your business has been scammed or a you don’t know. Also, if the goods domain registrar. scam was attempted, report it to are available locally, pause and To avoid this scam, record the Montana Office of Consumer ask why the purchaser needs to the domain registrar name and Protection at app.doj.mt.gov/ have you ship them such a long website and the renewal date for apps/Oscar/ and to BBB at bbb. distance. If the question trips all of your domain names. Then org/scamtracker/. they “accidentally” overpaid. They ask that you wire the overpayment amount back to them or to a colleague. This is a classic fraudulent check scam. To avoid this scam, never wire money and always be extremely cautious of overpayments. In fact, make it a policy to never accept overpayments, which are a red flag for fraud.

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Billings Business November 2015  

Billings Business November 2015