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Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
Eastern North Carolina
BBB Warns of Scams that Target Small Businesses
March 24, 2014

Small business owners often lack the time and resources to fight fraud, which makes them popular targets for any number of different scams. Being vigilant against fraud is not only important for a company’s bottom line, but it also strengthens customer trust in the company.

Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina recommends business owners beware of the following common scams that often prey on small companies:

  1. Bogus Yellow Page Ads – Many businesses across the country have received what appear to be invoices for ad space in the Yellow Pages directories. These invoices are often solicitations for listings in alternative business directories which may never be published at all. The solicitations are designed to look like invoices. It is illegal to mail a bill or invoice that is really a solicitation, unless it bears specific disclaimers, including “This is not a bill.” Businesses can protect themselves by alerting their accounting departments to be on the look-out for disguised solicitations and by carefully checking suspicious bills from unfamiliar companies.

Another version of this scam that has plagued businesses for decades involves deceptive sales for directories. Commonly, the scammer will call the business claiming they want to update the company’s entry in an online directory. The business is later billed hundreds of dollars for listing services it did not agree to.

  1. Office Supply Scams – Small business owners have reported receiving a shipment of office supplies they did not order, accompanied by an invoice that is often ten times the value of the shipment. BBB reminds business owners to know their rights. If you receive supplies or bills for services you did not order, do not pay. BBB also reminds business owners that they are not required to return the unordered merchandise.
  1. Phishing E-mails – Some phishing e-mails specifically target small businesses with the goal of hacking into their networks. Common examples include e-mails pretending to be from the IRS, claiming the company is being audited or phony e-mails claiming to be from BBB, saying the company has received a complaint. If you receive a suspicious e-mail from a government agency or BBB, do not click on any links or open any attachments. Contact the agency directly to confirm the legitimacy of the e-mail.
  1. Overpayment Scams – BBB warns business owners to be extremely cautious if a customer overpays using a check and then asks that the extra money be wired back. Overpayment scams target any number of different companies including catering businesses, manufacturers and wholesalers.
  1. Vanity Awards – Business owners have reported receiving e-mails stating they have won an award, but are asked to pay a fee to obtain a commemorative plaque. Often, these awards are just money-making schemes and have no actual merit. If you are approached about receiving a business or leadership award, research the opportunity carefully and be especially wary if you are asked to pay money.
  1. Charity Pitches – Most businesses are regularly asked to donate funds to needy causes. While many requests are legitimate, every year small businesses become victims of fraudulent or deceptive charitable solicitation schemes. BBB reminds business owners to always check out the charity at give.org first.

For additional information, visit bbb.org.