BBB warns business owners of scams

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Mehgaan Jones


The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning area merchants about seven scams that target small businesses.

Every year, the BBB receives thousands of complaints from small business owners who fall victims to an invoicing scam, or were misled into paying for products and services they did not want, according to an alert issued by the consumer-protection organization.

"Scammers aren't always trying to steal money from a business ... Sometimes, they are after a company's financial, or customer data, and will use many kinds of high- and low-tech methods for getting it," the written statement said.

The BBB is warning business owners to watch for the following seven scams that commonly target small companies:

* Directory Scams -- A problem that has plagued businesses for decades involves deceptive sales for directories. Commonly, the scammer will call the business claiming he or she just wants to update the company's entry in an online directory, or the scammer might lie about being with the Yellow Pages. The business is later billed hundreds of dollars for listing services they did not agree to, or for ads they thought would be in the Yellow Pages.

* Office Supply Scams -- Some scammers prey on small business owners, hoping they will not pay close attention to a bill for office supplies, such as toner or paper, which the company never ordered. Every year, the BBB receives thousands of complaints from business owners who were deceived by office supply companies, and billed for products they did not want.

* Overpayment Scams -- Be extremely cautious, the BBB warns, if a customer overpays using a check, or credit card, and then, asks you to wire the extra money back to him, or to a third party. Overpayment scams target any number of different companies, including catering businesses, manufacturers, wholesalers, and even sellers on Internet sites like eBay, Craigslist and Etsy.

* Data Breaches -- No matter how vigilant your company is, a data breach can still happen. 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 customers have in your business. You can learn how to defend your company from a data breach for free with BBB's "Data Security - Made Simpler," at www.bbb.org/data-security.

* Vanity Awards -- While it is flattering to be recognized for your hard work, some 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 wary if you are asked to pay money.

* Stolen Identity -- Scammers will often pretend to be a legitimate company for the purposes of ripping off consumers. When it comes to stolen identity, the company does not necessarily lose money, but their reputation is potentially tarnished as angry customers, who were ripped off by the scammers, think the real company is responsible.

* Phishing E-mails -- Some phishing e-mails specifically target small business owners with the goal of hacking into their computers, or network. Common examples include e-mails pretending to be from the IRS, claiming the company is being audited, or phony e-mails from the BBB saying the company has received a complaint. If you receive a suspicious e-mail from a government agency or the BBB, don't click on any links, or open any attachments. Contact the agency or the BBB directly to confirm the legitimacy of the e-mail.

For more advice on how to safeguard your business, visit www.bbb.org/us/Business-Resources/.