So we're hearing another warning for small business owners to be on watch for imposters claiming to be representatives from the State of Michigan Corporations Division.
And we have more warnings about a continuation of the con artists claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service, fake checks being mailed to job hunters in a secret shopper scam and other ways to get small business owners to hand over money.
The Federal Trade Commission announced a crackdown on three Montreal-based telemarketing operations that allegedly bilked millions from small business owners and others by charging them for unwanted listings in online "yellow pages."
The FTC said the "yellow pages" scam allegedly involved sending deceptive invoices that some small business employees paid. If someone disputed the invoices, the FTC said, collection tactics became aggressive, including playing back some audio recordings to make it sound like someone at the business agreed to pay to be in the business directory listing.
Business owners are being told to hang up on calls from someone claiming to be from state government and requesting the business address. The caller can seem to speak with authority by noting that the information is required by the State of Michigan Corporations Division in order to complete an annual update.
"These calls are not legitimate; do not respond," according to the alert from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
Even the phone number is tied to other scams. The number that might show up on caller ID is 882-014-0325. Other scams have been reported in California, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Texas.
Some business owners have complained of repeated calls. In some cases, the caller might engage in a conversation by asking if the business is moving to a new location.
In Michigan, businesses with questions about their corporation, limited liability company or limited partnership can use the Business Entity Search atwww.michigan.gov/entitysearch to check their status. Also if a statement or annual report needs to be filed, a business can file it online at www.michigan.gov/fileonline.
We warned about a similar scam last August, when small business owners and corporations were getting hit by solicitations for preparing key documents supposedly required by the state. The fee then was $125 or more for preparing the documents. The paperwork looked legitimate and resembled something that might come from a state office.
But accountants and others warned it was a scam.
The concern, of course, is that a small business owner who is busy juggling many duties could be tricked into thinking that some state government agency is requiring yet another form and another fee.
Small business owners can be more vulnerable to some dirty tricks, according to some experts, because they run on a tight staff.
Plenty of other warnings on new twists on old scams are out there, too.
Small business owners could be targeted when scammers send a phony invoice and pretend to be a regular supplier.
Or a business owner can be targeted, just like a regular consumer, as part of an advance fee type of scam. The business owner might be asked to pay a fee upfront to obtain a low-cost loan, but the business never receives the loan.
Small business owners facing tax troubles need to be wary of potential scams in which someone charges high-upfront fees for a promise to settle a tax debt for pennies on the dollar. Such deals are few and far between and apply to taxpayers trapped by dire financial conditions. Do not fax a letter or send a check for far less than you owe based on a call out of the blue.
Everyone still needs to watch out for the scam phone calls claiming to be from the IRS and demanding that money be handed over now, typically on a prepaid card or by wire transfer. The caller might threaten to take away someone's driver's license. Scammers also claim someone could be deported if they don't find the money immediately.
"These guys didn't stop their scam operation when the tax filing season ended, they're going full speed," said Luis D. Garcia, a spokesperson for the IRS in Detroit. "The best defense is to hang up and call us directly (800-829-1040) to find out if you really have a legitimate federal tax issue."
Scammers, of course, love to tie their latest pitch to the name of a legitimate government agency or company in some way.
The Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan is warning about something called the Home Depot Survey.
You might be looking for a job online and spot this offer to be a secret shopper and you think it's at Home Depot. It's not. The so-called manager responds to your applications and mails you information, including a check that's designed to cover $300 for your pay and money to spend on secret shopper purchases. It's a fake check.
The instructions tell you to deposit the check, deduct your fee and wire the balance to another country. But before you realize that the deposited cashier's check is worth pennies or nothing at all, you're stuck with a "secret" surprise — an overdrawn account.
The BBB warns that scam ads often urge you to apply immediately or say such things as "Teleworking OK."