4 Small Business Scams to Avoid

Have you ever fallen prey to a small business scam? If not, consider yourself lucky: There are plenty of con artists working to separate business owners from their money, especially small business owners, who likely don’t have the time and money to provide every last accounting check and balance that larger companies do. Here are some of the most common frauds to watch out for.

Fake invoice scams – Con artists know that most small businesses deal with lots of vendors and service providers — and they can take advantage of that knowledge by sending you an invoice or renewal notice for a realistic-sounding service that you’ve never received to begin with. Typically such invoices arrive for phantom office supplies or, more notoriously, online directory listings. In a recent case, one scam artist duped over 25,000 businesses into paying him $7 million for services they never received. To avoid falling prey to such a con, maintain scrupulous records of all of your purchases and subscriptions so you’ll know when something doesn’t match up.

Overpayment scams – If you’re selling products, be wary if the purchaser gives you a check or makes a credit card charge for more than the amount due. In this type of con, he or she will ask you to refund the amount that’s been overpaid — before you catch on to the fact that the check will bounce or the credit card is stolen. The FTC offers tips for avoiding such scenarios, which include verifying the buyer’s address and contact details, and avoiding accepting checks for more than the purchase price.

Better Business Bureau scam – Recently, an email that claims to come from the Better Business Bureau has been making the rounds, with the headline “Complaint from your customers.” Open the email, and you’ll be directed to click on a link to see the complaint. Don’t do it: The link contains malware that will steal your company’s data. The real BBB has sent out an alert about this scam, with information about how to protect your information and how to identify whether a BBB email is genuine.

Domain name scams – Have you ever received an email from someone claiming to be a domain registration center, claiming that another company has applied for a domain name that infringes on your trademark? This is a common ploy to get business owners to pay for domain names they don’t need — the “other company” doesn’t exist. If someone sends you an email that resembles the examples shown here, don’t take the bait.

About Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is a principal at the content marketing agency Eucalypt Media. She's written about business, marketing, and entrepreneurship for publications including BNET, TheAtlantic.com, Inc.com, and owns and operates the positive news site Gimundo. Follow her on Twitter at @kathrynhawkins.
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  1. [...] may try to take advantage of this by slipping you an invoice or a renewal notice for a product or a service that you’ve never received. To avoid these phony bills, set up a system for comparing all incoming invoices to your records [...]