New shipping scams are among the latest con tricks targeting small firms: Internet Scambusters #419
A new twist in shipping scams uses hijacked UPS and FedEx
account details from business customers.
And, as if it isn’t enough that the target firms have to pay
the hijackers’ bill (at least if they don’t notice the crime),
the crooks also use the victim company’s good name to hoodwink
consumers with advance payment scams.
We have the details in this week’s issue, along with several
more scams that target small businesses, including bogus food
inspectors and schemes that charge companies for free or
Before we get started, we suggest you visit last week’s most
popular articles from our other websites:
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Are You Spending Too Much on Clothes? If you find that you are spending too much on your clothing budget and making your credit card scream, here’s what you can do about it.
Unique Baby Shower: Your Step by Step Guide – Keep things fresh with these unique baby shower themes that are sure to spark some fantastic ideas all on your own.
Christmas Crafts for Kids of all Ages: Give kids from preschoolers on up something to do with these Christmas crafts for kids for all ages that are sure to bring the holiday spirit into your home.
Traditional Christmas Songs: What’s Traditional to You? Whether your traditional Christmas songs run the gamut from the Beach Boys’ Little St. Nick to Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, no matter the song, it’s still a loving tradition that brings family and friends together.
Your Guide to the Perfect Stocking Stuffers: Don’t forget those extra special little add-ons for perfect stocking stuffers that make Christmas gifts something really special.
Time to get going…
Hijacked Accounts Lead to New Shipping Scam
In a previous article, A Widespread Convincing and Dangerous UPS Scam, we reported on shipping scams via email, using the names of FedEx and UPS, which ask recipients to click on
an attachment that supposedly contains details of a shipment
to them, when it actually contains a virus.
Now crooks have turned their attention to small business fraud
by hijacking firms’ UPS and FedEx accounts, which they then
use for their own benefit, often for sending out fake advance
payment checks and shipping drugs.
This means, of course, that there’s no way of identifying the
crooks, since the packages go out through the accounts of
In the case of bogus checks, the use of legitimate company
accounts also helps the scammers in their efforts to convince
recipients that the deal, in which they’re supposed to wire
money, is genuine.
Business account numbers may be printed on shipping labels,
making them an easy target for the crooks.
In other cases, businesses actually post their account details
online for employees and others who genuinely need to use
Or crooks may simply hack their way into business computer
systems with poor security and steal the information there.
The crime offers a double lesson to both companies and
For businesses, it underlines the need to protect this vital
piece of information and to closely monitor accounts from the
shipping companies (which do normally reimburse fraud
For consumers, it emphasizes the value of being skeptical that
anything you receive actually comes from the purported sender.
And, as we always stress, you should never wire money to
someone you don’t know.
If you receive a check with such a request, you can be pretty
near certain it’s a scam.
According to the Chicago Tribune, which recently reported a
rise in the incidence of this crime, both UPS and FedEx advise
customers to “vigilantly guard their account numbers.”
The two shippers also confirmed that they do investigate all
fraud complaints and work closely with law enforcement.
Bogus food inspectors
Small business scam artists love to target restaurants — busy
locations, often with inexperienced staff and plenty of
members of the public milling around.
Latest tricks include crooks posing as food inspectors. In the
past, they’ve imposed on the spot fines, but, in a new twist,
the scammers phone and ask an employee or owner to “confirm”
business information, ahead of a scheduled visit (which, of
course, never takes place).
The motive isn’t clear but law enforcement officials say the
aim may be to set up bogus business identities for online
As restaurateurs should know, food inspections don’t work this
way and inspectors never seek confidential business
information over the phone.
Paying for free or unnecessary documentation
In this small business scam, websites offer a pay-service to
supply official documents and services like state business
registration and a Federal Employer Identification Number,
both of which are usually free from state governments and the
They may also offer sales tax certificates, even for states
that don’t have a sales tax! Some states do charge a small fee
for these certificates but, again, you should check with the
state rather than trying to buy from a third-party agency.
In fact, for all business documentation, your three best
sources of information are government offices, the IRS and, at
least as a starting point, your local Chamber of Commerce.
Phony contractor license renewal
Most states require contractors to hold and display a license
(different from the simple registration service mentioned
above), renewable annually.
Since these licenses are public documents, it’s a short step
from this legal requirement for scammers to send out bogus
renewal notices, as reported recently in South Carolina.
The notices look like official state demands but the payment
addresses don’t tally with the real ones — usually, they’re
out of state.
Action: When your license is due for renewal, check the
address and confirm it’s the same as that on the previous
year’s license. If in doubt, contact your state Labor
Better Business Bureau accreditation
Accreditation with the Better Business Bureau may be regarded
as a kind of stamp of approval. Knowing this, scammers posing
as BBB employees visit small businesses offering to sell them
They popped up in Washington State recently, soliciting
business door-to-door. In a couple of instances, they also
invited victim companies to enter an “official BBB lottery.”
The local Puget Sound Business Journal quoted a BBB
spokesperson saying: “Better Business Bureau does not have a
lottery and does not solicit door-to-door.”
Action: Check out the credentials of anyone who contacts you
claiming to be from the BBB by contacting the bureau’s local
office — details in the phone book.
Pay to be in the running for official contracts
Finally, a quick and easy small business scam for all firms to
watch out for.
Here’s how it works: You get a call supposedly inviting your
company to be a candidate to provide a product or service at
City Hall (or the police or some other local authority).
To get on the short list, however, the scammer wants you to
pay a fee, usually around $100.
The scammers may have set up a bank account with an official
sounding name to which you have to send payment. They clear it
out before their con comes to light.
Action here is simple: Don’t pay charges to get on a short
list. Governments don’t work this way.
For more information on common business scams, please see
these earlier issues.
And whether you’re in business or a consumer on the receiving
end, please watch out for those shipping scams.
That’s a wrap for this issue. Wishing you a great week!