8 Business Scam Tricks That Target Small Firms

Bogus documentation used in latest business scam outbreak: Internet Scambusters #518

Something old, something new could well be the theme of our
return to the business scam theme for this week’s issue.

Recent times have seen a revival of con tricks that involve
the issue of bogus documentation and authentication services,
while a new crop of scams include a clever way of getting
convenience stores to wire their own money to crooks.

But there’s one simple way of avoiding most of these scams, as
we explain.

As always, we also recommend you check out the most popular
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Let’s check out today’s…

8 Business Scam Tricks That Target Small Firms

Pretending to be some sort of official organization or helping
to fulfill a supposed legal requirement is a favorite trick of
business scam artists.

They approach small firms and tell them they need special
documentation or authentication services that they just happen
to be able to provide — for a fee of course.

We’ve identified at least 4 business scams that use this
technique. A couple have been around for a while but all are
active right now.

  • A company charging $125 to supply and file with state
    officials a document called an “annual minutes records form.”

    As far as we have been able to establish, no states use or
    require such a document.

  • A website designed to look like an official government page
    selling Federal Employer Identification Numbers (FEINs).

    Apart from the fact that the numbers are bogus, FEINs are
    actually available for free from the IRS.

  • Crooks charging a fee for membership and accreditation with
    a national consumer and business review organization.

    While it’s true some organizations may require an
    accreditation fee, no legitimate outfit would do so without
    first checking you out for compliance.

    If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from such a
    body, hang up, find their phone number independently, and
    check them out.

  • Phony contractor license renewals, often using what appear
    to be official letterheads and charging the correct amount for
    the official fee.

    The address usually gives the game away; often it is out of

    If you receive a renewal notice, especially when it’s not
    actually due, check the address with your previous license
    notification and then confirm the address either online or via
    the phone book.

4 New Business Scam Tricks

Of course, phony documents and services are not the only
business scams targeting small firms.

We’ve written about a dozen more con tricks in previous

The 5 Most Common Business Scams

Business Scams #2: 7 More Tricks to Snag Your Money and Data

In addition, here are 4 more business scam ruses to be on the
lookout for.

  • Bogus food inspections. We mentioned this in an earlier
    issue as a technique for levying supposed on-the-spot fines.

    But in the latest variation, the crook asks for information
    that can be used to set up phony business identities for
    fraudulent sales or money forwarding operations.

    Sometimes, victims are asked to call a phone number and use a
    special code to schedule an inspection.

    This appears to be part of a complex trick to validate the
    business identity theft.

    Food inspectors don’t require this type of information. Nor do
    they use a call-back and code system to schedule visits.

  • Negative online company reviews, sometimes even claiming a
    business has closed. These might come from unscrupulous
    competitors or disgruntled customers.

    You need to be eagle-eyed for these and take swift action to
    correct them.

    Set up a Google news alert to report any references to your
    business and monitor review sites that cover your business area.

    As an aside, in New Zealand earlier this year, crooks set up a
    scam to remove business names from Google Maps.

    Then they contacted the business owners, claiming to work on
    behalf of Google, and demanded a fee to reinstate them.

    Google doesn’t charge for basic inclusion on its maps. If
    someone removes your business, contact the Internet search
    company directly.

  • Stealing metal and other items from your business to sell as

    This scam usually starts with a visit from the crooks offering
    to buy items you don’t want.

    They may even make a cash down payment but what they’re really
    doing is casing the joint so they can return when it’s closed
    and help themselves.

  • The convenience store money-wiring scam.

    We’re used to hearing about how members of the public are
    tricked by crooks into using untraceable money wiring
    services, but how about the money wirers themselves?

    A number of convenience stores offer this cash transmission
    service, often operated by shift-duty clerks when the owner is
    not around.

    In a con trick recently seen in Alabama, a clerk took a call
    from a crook claiming to be from Western Union, saying he
    wanted to update and then test the store’s wiring service.

    He convinced the clerk to send a payment to a top-up cash card
    and actually talked the victim through the process while she
    did it.

    The fact is that the money wiring services don’t carry out
    checks and updates in this way.

    Even if they did, the appropriate response would be to contact
    the cash transfer company independently.

    In fact, this independent checking-out action is the key to
    many of the security procedures you can use to avoid the scams
    featured in this issue — and indeed in many other types of
    con tricks.

    If you run a small firm, including one from home, you know how
    precarious it can be making ends meet financially.

Make sure you don’t let life become even tougher by falling
for a business scam.

That’s all for today — we’ll see you next week.