Scams that target small businesses can come in a variety of forms - from bills for advertising or directory listings that were never ordered to dubious office supply offers.
Small business operators and individuals with their own Internet sites continue to be confused and caught by unsolicited letters warning them that their Internet domain name is due to expire and must be renewed, or offering them a new domain name similar to their current one.
If you have registered a domain name, be sure to carefully check any domain name renewal notices or invoices that you receive. While the notice could be genuine, it could also be from another company trying to sign you up, or it could be from a scammer.
- Check that the renewal notice matches your current domain name exactly. Look out for small differences - for example, ".com" instead of ".ca" or missing letters in the URL address.
- Check that the renewal notice comes from the company with which you originally registered your domain name.
- Check your records for the actual expiry date for your existing domain name.
A directory listing or unauthorized advertising scam tries to bill a business for a listing or advertisement in a magazine, journal or business directory, or for an online directory listing.
The scam might come as a proposal for a subscription disguised as an update of an existing listing in a business directory. You might also be led to believe that you are responding to an offer for a free listing when in fact it is an order for a listing requiring later payment.
Another common approach used by scammers is to call a firm asking to confirm details of an advertisement that they claim has already been booked. The scammer might quote a genuine entry or advertisement your business has had in a different publication or directory to convince you that you really did use the scammer’s product.
Be wary of order forms offering advertising opportunities in business directories. These order forms may look like they originate from a well-known supplier of directory advertising, when they don’t.
An office supply scam involves you receiving and being charged for goods that you did not order. These scams often involve goods or services that you regularly order - for example, paper, printing supplies, maintenance supplies or advertising.
You might receive a phone call from someone falsely claiming to be your "regular supplier", telling you that the offer is a "special" or "available for a limited time", or pretending to only confirm your address or existing order. If you agree to buy any of the supplies offered to you, they will often be overpriced and of bad quality.
- Make sure that the people processing the invoices or answering telephone calls are aware of these scams. They will most often be the point of contact for the scammers. Always check that goods or services were both ordered and delivered before paying an invoice.
- Never give out or update any information about your business unless you know what the information will be used for.
- Don’t agree to a business proposal over the phone - always ask for an offer in writing. Limit the number of people in your business that have access to funds and have the authority to approve purchases.
- Effective management procedures can go a long way towards preventing these scams from succeeding. Having clearly defined procedures for the verification, payment and management of accounts and invoices is an effective defence against these types of scams.
- Ask yourself if a caller claims that I have ordered or authorized something and I do not think it sounds right, shouldn’t I ask for proof?