Beware of Fake Invoices and Unordered Office Supplies imageAs a small business owner, the best way to protect your company from fraud is to learn the signs of scams that target businesses and share this information with your employees and colleagues.

Here are several types of scams that target small businesses, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Fake invoices. Scammers create phony invoices that look like they’re for products or services your business uses. A common example of this is domain name registrations. Scammers hope the person who pays your bills will assume the invoices are for things the company actually ordered. Scammers know that when the invoice is for something critical, like keeping your website up and running, you may pay first and ask questions later. Except it’s all fake, and if you pay, your money may be gone.

Unordered office supplies and other products. Someone calls to confirm an existing order of office supplies or other merchandise. This person then verifies an address or offers a free catalog or sample. If you confirm the information, unordered merchandise arrives at your doorstep followed by high-pressure demands to pay for it. If you don’t pay, the scammer may even play back a tape of the earlier call as proof that the order was placed. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you have the right to keep for free any merchandise you did not order.

Directory listing and advertising scams. Con artists try to fool you into paying for nonexistent advertising or a listing in a nonexistent directory. They may ask you to provide contact information for a free listing or say the call is simply to confirm your information for an existing order. Later, you’ll get a big bill, and the scammers may use details of the earlier call to pressure you to pay.

How to protect your business from fraud

  • Train your employees. Your best defense is an informed workforce. Explain to your staff how scams happen and share this brochure with them from the FTC.
  • Verify invoices and payments. Check all invoices closely. Never pay unless you know the bill is for items that were actually ordered and delivered. Tell your staff to do the same.
  • Beware of unusual payment requests. Pay attention to how someone asks you to pay. Tell your staff to do the same. If you are asked to pay with a wire transfer, reloadable card, or gift card, you can bet it’s a scam.
  • Have clear procedures for approving invoices. To reduce the risk of a costly mistake, limit the number of people who are authorized to place orders and pay invoices. Review your procedures to ensure spending can’t be triggered by an unexpected call, email, or invoice.