Fake supply orders, phishing tricks and grants offer among latest business scams: Internet Scambusters #715
A new business scam is targeting not just small firms but also schools, churches and charitable organizations.
Meanwhile, aspiring work-from-home operators are in the sights of crooks offering phony business grants, and scammers have come up with two new ways of stealing confidential business information.
We have all the details of these latest business scams in this week's issue.
Now, here we go...
Schools, Churches, Charities, Small Firms Targeted in Free Samples Business Scam
Who doesn't like free samples? But not if they're a disguised come-on for a business scam that results in an unwelcome bill.
That's the latest version of the well-known invoice scam that targets small businesses with huge bills for low-value or even non-existent supplies.
In this new trick, telemarketers phone small firms, churches, schools and even charitable organizations offering free samples of "bargain" supplies for them to "test."
But the scammers don't wait for feedback; they follow-up with consignments of trashy goods, which they claim were part of the deal, and abandon the so-called bargain prices, presenting victims with huge bills.
If the organizations resist or question the bill, the crooks then use high pressure debt collection techniques to try to get their money.
Just for good measure, they may even continue to send supplies and overbill for them as well.
If you're involved with a small business or non-profit organization, and scammers try this tactic on you, the law states quite clearly that you don't have to pay for merchandise you (or your employees) didn't order, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
That applies even if someone in your organization unknowingly opened and started using the supplies before you could intervene. Furthermore, if you didn't order it, you don't have to return it, the FTC says.
"If a vendor tries to make you pay, make them give you proof of the sale - for example, a purchase order," the Commission advises. "Scrutinize anything you receive and pay only if what they send you checks out."
It's also important that you spread the word about these tactics to co-workers or employees or to employees at churches and schools.
"Deceptive telemarketers may target less experienced employees or occasional volunteers to get them to 'confirm' orders by falsely claiming an ongoing business relationship with your company," the FTC adds.
"Designating one staffer as the go-to person for all periodic purchases reduces the risk of a supplies surprise."
Sneaky Phishing Trick
Now here's a question for small business owners and non-profit organizations.
What would you do if someone came into your office claiming to be the owner of another nearby firm that was going out of business?
He's offering a few small items at fire-sale prices, and he produces an almost complete roll of stamps or something else with a clear face value that he's selling at half price.
Seems like a good deal, right? And you have some sympathy for the guy, who insists you pay by check as all the money has to pass through his business accounts.
Hold on! Did you just hand him all your bank account details neatly printed on the check?
Yes, you did, and you probably won't realize this was just a sneaky phishing trick until you discover someone has been passing checks around town drawn on your account.
In fact, a really competent crook -- and there are plenty of them out there -- would also be able to duplicate watermarks and other security codes onto forged checks to make them look truly authentic.
So, if one of these guys comes knocking on your door, save your sympathy and compassion. Or insist it's a cash-only deal, and see what he does.
Contract Con Trick
A different but equally clever approach to stealing confidential business account information comes in the shape of an email that seems to deliver good news about an impending contract.
The subject heading is usually something like "contract offer" and the message appears to come from an existing customer.
Often there's an attachment or a link that requires the victim to key in their account details, username, and password for this particular client so they can see details of the supposed contract.
The crooks then sign on to the customer's account and redirect payments. They may also test the sign-on details with other accounts or use the attachment to upload malware.
The remedy is simple. If you receive what looks like a new contract deal, contact the buyer directly to confirm before clicking on any links or attachments.
Latest Grants Scam
Another favorite scam that targets small businesses and non-profits is the offer of a mouthwatering grant.
In the latest version of this trick, organizations receive a snail-mail solicitation that includes what appears to be a certificate entitling the recipient to a government grant, often for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The solicitation has some pretty impressive literature that includes testimonials from other supposed recipients and a table showing different levels of available grants -- together, of course, with a sliding scale of fees that have to be paid upfront to secure this money.
The mail piece is also being sent to individuals together with supporting material explaining how to start a work-from-home business -- with the help of the grant.
It all seems very enticing but the fees are a clear signal that this is a scam.
And don't be fooled by the existence of a reply address on the mailing. It usually leads to a legitimate mailbox service that simply forwards the replies to another mailbox address outside the U.S.
Alert of the Week
There's a new surge of scams in which victims receive a message saying their PayPal account has been switched to "limited access" because of security concerns.
It's a phishing trick that uses a link taking you to a phony sign-on page where your credentials are stolen.
Don't go there. If you have concerns about your PayPal account, always go to www.paypal.com and start from there, or call 1-888-221-1161.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!