Don’t Get Scammed: Tips for Small Business Owners

small business scams

When you run a successful small business, you’re faced with a constant stream of details and decisions that are detrimental to your company. It’s easy to make small mistakes in the flurry of a busy day. And that’s exactly what scammers are counting on. According to a Better Business Bureau survey of small business owners, 67 percent of respondents say their businesses face more risk from small business scams today than just three years ago.

In June, the Federal Trade Commission announced Operation Main Street: Stopping Small Business Scams – a coordinated law enforcement and education effort with state and federal partners as well as the BBB, to stop scams that target small businesses.

Educated Employees Are Your Best Protection

When you and your staff know what to look for, your business will be much harder for scammers to target. In general, scammers will use intimidation to ignite fear and create a sense of urgency. They may also request payments through odd and untraceable payment methods, like gift cards or wire transfers, or pretend to be a person or company that you trust. 

Common Scams That Target Small Businesses

There are many different tactics that scammers take when it comes to hurting your business. They may call to “confirm an existing order” and later demand payment. This can simply be avoided by verifying the order. If it is not something that someone in your business placed, it is a scam.

Scammers may also create fake invoices, hoping they look legitimate to the person paying them. If there is ever an invoice that doesn’t seem right, or an individual asking for money in an unusual way, you should double-check everything to make sure it’s a legitimate invoice.

Scammers like to imitate the companies your business relies on, such as utilities, tech support, or government agencies. If you are contacted by someone from a company like these saying there is great urgency or risk, be wary. As previously mentioned, scammers like to intimidate, and the most successful way to do this is to the threaten supplies that are important to your business – water, electricity, computer systems, licenses, etc.

Some scammers use too-good-to-be-true advertising and marketing offers as a way to gain passwords and account information. If someone claims that you have a free advertising opportunity, it could be a scam. Scammers may also trick employers by offering to replace negative online reviews. Posting false reviews is not only illegal, but a scam to charge you crazy amounts.

Finally, the most difficult schemes to detect come from cyber scammers. It may begin with an email to change a password or update software. The easiest way to tell this is a scam is if it asks for extra money, or if it creates a sense of urgency. These are not typically part of a normal password reset or software update request. If an email is suspicious, don’t click on any links or attachments, but go directly to the website mentioned.

Recent Real-Life Scams

  • PointBreak Media. Based in Florida, this scam robocalled business owners. Claiming to represent Google, the calls threatened removal or promised high placement in Google search results.
  • DOT Authority. In this scam, a group impersonated the Department of Transportation to get trucking businesses to pay fake vehicle registration fees.
  • A-1 Janitorial. This involved an office supply scam that charged businesses and nonprofits for “free” product samples.

For more information about scams and how to avoid them, read this FTC article or check out this FTC publication, “Scams and Your Small Business.”