An invoice of $500 or more for a directory listing arrives in the mail at your business. Problem is, you don’t recall agreeing to pay for the listing. If you ignore the invoice, however, you find yourself on the receiving end of threats that include legal action.
You’re not alone. Better Business Bureau® Serving Northern Colorado and Wyoming reports a strong uptick in the number of small businesses receiving phony invoices for directory listings.
Your BBB and the FTC advise taking the following four steps before buying directory advertising space or membership through a mail solicitation or paying an “invoice”:
Train your staff to spot this scam. In addition to your regular receptionist, talk to everyone who may pick up the phone. Put a copy of this alert in employee mailboxes. Mention it in a staff meeting. Post it on the break room bulletin board or where employees clock in and out.
Inspect your invoices. Depending on the size and nature of your business, consider implementing a purchase order system to make sure you’re paying only legitimate expenses. At a minimum, designate a small group of employees with authority to approve purchases and pay bills. Train your team to send all inquiries to them. Compile a list of the companies you typically use for directory services, office supplies, and other recurring expenses. Encourage the people who pay the bills to develop a “show me” attitude when it comes to unexpected invoices from companies they’re not familiar with. Don’t pay for products or services you’re not sure you ordered.
Verify to clarify. Many business directory scam artists are headquartered in Canada, but use post office boxes or mail drops to make it look like they are in the United States. Before paying, check out the company’s BBB Business Review at wynco.bbb.org.
File a complaint. If a scammer is sending you bogus bills, speak up. Visit wynco.bbb.org to complain to the BBB. And let the FTC know by filing a complaint at ftc.gov or calling 877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). Your complaints help shape the FTC’s law enforcement agenda, so it’s important to sound off when you spot a scam. Concerned about business directory fraudsters’ threats to tarnish your credit if you don’t pay? Many will simply drop the matter – and may even provide a refund – if they know you’ve complained to BBB and law enforcement.
Start With Trust. For more small business tips, visit wynco.bbb.org.