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Tips for Consumers: Scam Artists Target Businesses

Tips for Consumers
Scam Artists Target Businesses
by Nicholas Greaves
President, The Better Business Bureau

Small business owners in the Hagerstown area often fall prey to scam artists. They may be too distracted to thoroughly investigate sales pitches or don't take the time to train their staff in careful bill-paying procedures. Here are some rip-offs that h it businesses all the time:
Labor Poster Solicitations: Businesses receive mailings from government sound-alike companies. They warn that firms failing to display labor posters could receive up to $75,000 in criminal penalties. They offer to sell the posters for as much as $99 each. But virtually all government agencies give out these posters for free.
Phony Invoices: Businesses receive invoices for hundreds of dollars of non-existent services. They may say "consulting" or "Internet design." It is against U.S. Postal regulations to mail a bill or invoice that is actually a solicitation, unless it bears a clear disclaimer. But the best protection is vigilance. Businesses should alert their billpayers to carefully review invoices from companies with which they do not normally do business, establish effective internal controls and verify all invoices before paying.
Business Advertising: Unknown companies sell advertising for placemats to be used in local restaurants. Or the ads will be on the backs of store receipts or in two-for-one coupon books. Most are entirely legitimate, but some promoters just take the money and disappear. Check them out first. View examples of their work and check their references.
Help the Local Sports Team: A solicitor calls to sell ads in your local high school or college sports program. You assume he is authorized by the school, then later discover that the school has never heard of him and they receive none of your payments. Always verify such solicitations with the school directly.
Police or Fire Appeals: A favorite to trick business. The caller sounds exactly like a trooper or firefighter-or he wants help for other causes like veterans or the disabled. He is very businesslike and convincing, but really works for a profit making company on straight commission. Your local police or firefighter organizations may not get a penny of your donation.

Always contact the BBB to check out legitimate businesses. Visit our web site, or give us a call 24 hours a day at 410-347-3992. If you have a complaint, use our web site or write us at: BBB, 1414 Key Highway, #100, Baltimore, MD 21230. Our office serves Hagerstown and all of Washington County.

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