Businesses--Watch Out for These Scams

March 18, 2013

Consumers are not the only victims of scams and fraud; businesses have also become target of unscrupulous schemes and fraudulent activity. From invoicing scams to paying for unwanted products, Better Business Bureau (BBB) receives complaints throughout the year from business owners who have fallen victim.

“Being vigilant against fraud is not only important for a company’s bottom line, it also strengthens consumer trust,” said Matthew Fehling, BBB President/CEO.

BBB warns business owners of scams and schemes targeting businesses:

Directory Scams: A scammer will call a business claiming the need to update the company’s information for an online or business directory. The business is later billed for a listing service to which they did not agree. In some instances, the company receives a fax that appears to be a request to update information for a “yellow page” directory, but in reality the fine print indicates it’s an agreement to pay for inclusion in the directory.

Business Opportunities: Business owners may be approached to invest in other business opportunities. Promoters may claim that little effort is required to collect high profits. Before jumping into a business collaboration, make sure the value of the product and its true costs are known. Always check out the business at

Office Supply Scams: Some scammers prey on business owners hoping they won’t question a bill for office supplies - such as toner or paper - they never ordered.

Overpayment Scams: Be cautious of customers who overpay for an order and then ask for the extra money to be wired back. In some cases, an unknown customer places an unusually large order via phone using a credit card, later cancels or reduces the order and then asks for the money to be wired back. Overpayment scams target different types of businesses including restaurants, manufacturers, hotels and wholesalers.

Data Breaches: No matter how vigilant, a data breach can happen to any company. Whether it’s the result of hackers, negligence or a disgruntled employee, a data breach can have a severe impact on the level of trust from consumers. Companies can protect themselves from a data breach with BBB’s free guide “Data Security - Made Simpler” found at

Vanity Awards. While it’s flattering to be recognized for hard work, some awards are just money-making schemes that have little or no merit. Companies should research any awards coming from unknown organization especially if they ask for money as part of their eligibility process.

Phishing Emails. Some phishing emails specifically target business owners with the intent of downloading malware onto the their computer systems. Common examples include emails pretending to be from nationally recognized organizations, claiming the need for an immediate response and instructing the business to download attachments or link to websites. Phishing emails make companies vulnerable to computer viruses or hacking.

To avoid scams that target businesses, BBB offers the following tips:

Get everything in writing. Require that all in-person, Internet or telephone sales pitches, advertising and charity appeals, or requests for personal information be made in writing.

Refuse to make commitments with unfamiliar organizations. Train employees to refuse deals with unknown sellers, particularly over the phone.

Before signing any document, read it carefully. Sometimes items such as checks and purchase orders contain legal agreements that you might not realize you are authorizing. Never sign a contract that contains blank spaces.

Institute strict accounting controls. The handling of invoices and purchase orders should be centralized and closely checked.

Change pass-codes for telephone, voice mail, and other billable communications systems frequently. Use complex passwords. Passwords should never consist of character combinations that can be guessed easily, such as phone numbers, birthdays, or names.

Review all financial statements and bills, to make sure there are no unauthorized charges on your accounts. Keep sensitive documents in a secure place.

Do not pay for goods or services you did not order. If fraudulent charges appear on bank statements, credit card bills, or other bills, send a letter disputing the false charges to your financial institution.

Protect your company's financial data and any data about your customers that could be used for fraud purposes. You may wish to consider privacy and security consultants review your company's operations.

Investigate unfamiliar businesses before you buy. Find out the street address, phone number, licensing information, names of key contacts, and about its reputation. Review the company’s BBB Business Review at