Scammers have set their sights on Australian small businesses, so watch out for these cons.
The old scams are the best scams and some of these have been around for a while under different guises and updated for the internet age. Australian businesses are still falling for them, according to the consumer watchdog's SCAMwatch site, so it pays to keep your guard up.
Watch out for people trying to bill you for directory listings or advertisements which you didn't book. Often the publication in question may not even exist. Sometimes the scammers will contact you to "confirm" your listing or advertisement. Other times they might send what looks like a free entry form but isn't. Or perhaps they'll simply send you an invoice, or a document which looks close enough to an invoice that you might mistake it for one.
You need to examine requests for payment carefully, as scammers can even go as far as citing a genuine directory listing or advertisement you placed with a different publication and demanding you pay for it.
There are several variations on this scam. The bogus invoices could be for trademarks, patents or Internet domain names. Domain name scammers might invoice you for domain names similar to your own, or offer to sell you similar domain names which they claim your competitors are trying to buy. Alternatively they might send you what looks like a renewal notice with your current domain name provider but is actually an authorisation to transfer your domain name to them.
Office supply scams are also common, tricking you into buying supplies you didn't request or again simply sending a bogus invoice for goods which were never received.
Putting in a safeguard
All of these scams rely on tricking people into paying what they believe are genuine invoices. Scammers are often target junior staff in the hope of fooling someone unfamiliar with how the company's finances and purchasing procedures work. One of the best ways to protect your business against billing scams is to have strict rules in place as to which staff are authorised to place orders and pay invoices.
If your business has ever received or fallen victim to a scam, you might consider participating in Curtin Business School's project to investigate the prevalence of scams committed against small businesses in Australia.