We are aware of phone, text, and email scams meant to steal your identity or money, however, very little is said about preventing your business from falling into the hands of fraudsters and scam artists. It is quite easy to fall into the hands of a trickster; however, it’s even easier to prevent falling victim to one. Just like personal information scams, there are always large and small signs that can help you recognize that you may be falling for something nefarious. The first thing to remember is that fraudsters will try their hardest to look and sound as legitimate and professional as possible. Also, remember that a reputable vendor will respect you and your business, but a criminal will try almost anything to get your money. Here are three of the most common scams:
Office Supply Scam: This scam includes one, or more, unsolicited phone calls to a targeted business - their main goal is to gather information about your business. This can include the business owner’s name, name(s) of your work colleagues, corporate mailing address, or even what type of office equipment is being used for your business. The scammer’s second or third call is purposefully placed to a colleague since they would make an easier target to accept a shipment of supplies. This is referred to as an “assumed sale.” Once the supplies are delivered, the products may be of poor quality, and cost more than asking price.
Once the invoice arrives, and you refuse to pay it, you will receive countless aggressive calls threatening to report you to collection agencies, and local business associations to damage your reputation. Also, if you refuse to pay, the problem can multiply and get worse as time goes on, and the scammers will try and find other ways to scam you.
The best way to prevent such a scam is to research the supply companies. First, look for a legitimate phone number or mailing address, browse the company’s website and looks for small details such as a non-secure webpage, stolen photos of products, and check out their policy page. You can also Google the company and see if anyone has written a review on them, possibly a warning about them. For your colleagues, designate one person to handle ordering and receiving office supplies so that other colleagues won’t fall victim to this scam. Remember, reputable vendors will respect you, your time, and your business.
Directory Scam: Let us pretend you have received a phone call from someone claiming to be an advertising representative for a certain magazine, journal, business directory or for an online directory. The person asks you to confirm the name, address, and contact information. Once you confirm, the scammer now has your information and implies that you have purchased a listing in a directory, or they may promote themselves to you for a sale, or you may believe that you are receiving a free listing when in fact it is an order for a listing requiring payment later. These scams prey on the fact that all organizations want to promote themselves, so the scammers may try and convince you that their listing can increase people’s awareness about you and your business.
Just like the office supply scam, if you don’t pay up, then your reputation could be in jeopardy from these spiteful scammers. That could also keep on harassing you until you pay them. There is no shame in being skeptical when it comes to these calls, you can research them using the Better Business Bureau, and you never have to agree with a listing price right away. Remember, a legitimate advertising listing agent will respect you, your time, and your business.
Business Loans and Grants Scams: In another scenario, let’s say you are surfing the internet for small to medium business financing. You come across a website that looks like it belongs to the government, it has the logos and all! However, there are scammers out in the world who are quite masterful at creating carbon copy websites, such as ones our government uses. The best way to counter this is to Google the Canadian Government website and find the legitimate website. There are other signs that the website may be linked to fraud. This can include a fee to access government funding programs and agencies. The website may also claim that funding is 100% guaranteed.
First, if the website you are looking at was legit, you’d never have to pay a fee to apply for government funding. Second, no one is ever guaranteed that you’ll receive funding for your business, nor are private sector companies involved in the approval process. Just like the other scams listed above, being skeptical is a good thing! Examine the website closely, look for small clues that this could be a scam. Still not sure? Then seek out legitimate information about small to medium-sized business start-up and financing at the Canadian Business Network. Call 1 800 O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) for general information on Government of Canada programs and services.
Scams use a variety of tactics and techniques to convince, push, or scare you into their pitch. These tactics can include, but are not limited to, reciprocity (meaning, we’ll give you something, so you must give us something back), flattery, pitching a better deal, peer pressure, or even scaring you with scarcity, exclusivity, and urgency. Above all, always trust your gut instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, you are probably right.
Also, be sure to report any fraudulent or suspicious activity, and don’t judge yourself too harshly if you’ve fallen victim, as scam artists are hard to detect. It doesn’t matter how big or small the scam is, whether it be lost money, false or misleading advertisements, or even identity theft, contact the Competition Bureau Canada at 1‑800‑348‑5358, or file a fraud report on their website.