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.
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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 state.
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 issues.
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 scrap.
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.