When it comes to scams, there’s certainly no shortage of the number of things that some individuals will do to defraud others. Between credit card fraud, identity theft, lottery scams, and every other action that dishonest people take at the expense of innocent victims, you must always be aware of your finances and protective of your personal property and information.
Unfortunately, the same type of diligence is required when it comes to protecting your business, as there are predators who will attempt to take money from you in sometimes cleverly disguised B2B scams. To avoid being victimized by them, here are a few suggestions based largely on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) reported five most common small business scams:
Educate Yourself and Your Staff
One of the best ways to keep your business from being scammed is to make you and your staff fully aware of the methods that the scammers are constantly using on unsuspecting business owners and employees. This allows you to help protect yourself by heading them off at the pass. It’s kind of like when you hear that there’s been a bunch of neighborhood burglaries so you watch your home and area a little bit closer, taking extra precautions to make sure you don’t become the next victim. Same principle.
To help you with this, the FTC has a small, 6-page brochure you can print up which discusses the most common small business scams and how they work. Read it, hand out to your staff, and discuss it at your staff meetings. Work together to talk about these cons and come up with solutions that can help you protect your business from devious “companies” that are trying to earn a buck the easy way.
Ask Questions and Encourage Your Employees to Do the Same
The minute you start asking scammers questions, they usually end the contact because they don’t want to be found out and don’t like hard targets. That makes this action perfect because it typically stops the offender from getting close enough to do any damage.
For instance, if someone calls your small business indicating that they are with a directory company and requests that you confirm your contact information (like business name, address, and phone number), be willing to ask them some questions to keep from falling for the directory listing scam. This scam revolves around the listing company, which may or may not be real, using your verbal confirmation as “proof” that you ordered their service, causing them to send a bill to you. Sadly, some business owners pay it just to be done with it and stop the company from calling and harassing them.
However, by asking questions when someone calls, you could potentially stop yourself from being scammed. Some questions you may want to ask include who they are, why they’re calling specifically, and whether or not this is a free service or if you’ll be sent a bill once the call is complete. If possible, do this on a prerecorded line as sometimes these scammers have been known to doctor their taped version, making it sound like you did in fact sign up for their paid service.
Hold Off a Pressuring Scammer So You Can Do Your Homework
Sometimes scammers use high pressure strategies to try to get you to do something without thinking, ultimately giving them the upper hand. The charity con is one great example of this when the requester tries to strong arm you into making a donation right then, before you’ve had the time to check them out to determine whether they’re a reputable organization or not.
Simply saying, “Let me check this out and get back to you” is a great response to this type of contact as it gives you the opportunity to disengage and investigate the agency to determine on your own whether they’re scamming you or not. If it is a true agency, they’ll understand and give you the time you need without hesitation. If they keep trying to get you to commit even after you’ve said this, it usually isn’t a good sign.
It’s also not a bad idea to ask that they send you some literature to review. Most scammers won’t have any, but even if they do, still do your homework so you can determine for yourself whether or not they’re a reputable company.
Designate One Person to Handle All of Your Supply Matters
Some B2B scammers use the supply swindle to take your money, which basically involves sending you supplies you didn’t order, putting you on the hook for paying for them once they’re accepted and signed for. Fortunately, this one can be easily avoided by designating one person to handle all supply-related matters.
Preferably, you want this to be the same person who orders all of your supplies to begin with. That way, he or she will know exactly what companies you ordinarily use, which orders are pending, and when they are expected to be delivered. By not blanketly accepting all deliveries with a signature from someone who isn’t aware of these types of details, this common scam can be stopped dead in its tracks.
Have you ever been scammed? If so, feel free to share it in the comment section below so that other small business owners can protect themselves from being swindled too!
I’m always interested in learning other small business owners’ thoughts on relevant topics and issues, so if you have a comment or unique article idea, feel free to contact me at [email protected] (put “Businessing Magazine” in the subject line, please). If I use it, it’s a free link to your website!