Thinking and Meaning

The thinking man's guide to creating connections.

Tips for Avoiding Business Scams

Business scam warnings


Scammers target businesses as much, if not more, than individuals. One of the biggest scams is charging businesses for items they did not order, or unordered sending items along with an invoice. The scammers count on the fact that in some businesses, the person ordering the items isn’t always the person handling the invoices. The scam goes unnoticed and the scammer receives a fat check. If the order is not refused or returned, the scammer will go in for the kill with a bigger order and matching invoice. People operating small businesses have the advantage since they usually know what was ordered as well as which invoices are legitimate. A one man show may use his personal cell phone to conduct business which allows him to use an app for unknown number look ups and to reverse search calls from suspicious vendors.

The scams target many different types of business and non-profits, including mom and pop businesses to churches to corporations. The Federal Trade Commission has reports on various types of scams, how to avoid them or report the persons responsible for the scam. Their website reports one company that had paid out over $20,000 for supplies they never ordered – light bulbs, cleaners, hand sanitizers, etc. Some companies refuse to pay for unordered products, which is legal; otherwise they would have to pay to return them to the sender. If your business receives products or merchandise that no one ordered, the law says the vendor cannot charge or legally collect on it. You don’t have to pay for it or return it, even if the products were used.

Protecting Your Business

Business owners can protect themselves from merchandise scams by doing the following:

Train Employees

Scammers may target more than one employee in a business. Train employees to direct calls to a purchasing agent or manager.

Checks and Balances

All purchases and invoices should be checked upon arrival. If an item arrives that was not purchased, it should be investigated.

Verify Invoices

Business owners should always verify invoices and requests for payment. Any unknown person that offers to pay by personal check could be suspect. If someone requests payment via wire transfer, gift card or reloadable gift card, it’s almost certain to be a scam.

Be Tech-Savvy

Scammers are clever. Don’t trust your Caller ID. Thieves can obtain fake phone numbers and emails that are usually untraceable. They may send messages that appear to be from clients or colleagues, so you should always verify. Keep your organization’s financial information, passwords and files in a secure location. Avoid opening emails with attachments as they may contain viruses or spyware. The FTC has more tips on keeping your business safe at Small Business Computer Security Basics.

Beware of “Consultants”

Before hiring a business consultant, research the company. It is a trend for fake consultants to demand upfront payment and then not show up or offer advice you could have had for free.

While it may seem impossible to stay 100% safe, being vigilant can certainly help to protect your business.