The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is warning small business people to beware of false billing scams.
False billing scams try to trick businesses into paying an invoice for goods or especially services that haven't been ordered. Common ruses include sending invoices for entries or adverts in (sometimes non-existent) magazines or directories, or for the 'renewal' of a domain name that hasn't already been registered but is similar to the one used by the business.
There have also been cases where dodgy registrars have sent domain renewal notices to their competitors' customers. Inviting a business to switch from one registrar to another is legitimate, tricking someone into doing it - especially when excessive fees are involved - is not.
False billing complaints rose 45 percent in 2013, according to the ACCC. “False billing scams continue to be the most common scam targeting the small business community, with 3,672 reports received in 2013 and almost $725,000 reported lost,” said ACCC deputy chairman Dr Michael Schaper.
Dr Shaper recommends small businesses protect themselves by:
- checking the source of unexpected invoices or other forms - don't rely on the contact details shown on the document, do your own search of the phone book or other resources (BIT would also point out that it's easy for a fraudster to create a web site for a nonexistent business, so don't rely on a web search either)
- establishing a clear process for verifying invoices before they are paid, and limit the number of staff authorised to place orders or pay invoices
- not being intimidated by anyone trying to pressure them into entering a contract or making a payment - if necessary, seek financial or legal advice
- keeping security software updated, and taking care to use (and where appropriate offer) secure online payment channels.
You can keep up with the ACCC's adviceand warnings about scams at the Commission's SCAMwatch site.