Scams targeting small business | Fair trading 

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Scammers will often go to great lengths to convince you that their offer or request is legitimate, so it’s important that you remain aware of typical scams and know what to do if you’re targeted.

Common scams targeting small business

Tax refund scam

In this scam, the scammer will typically pretend to be from a government agency, bank or private law firm claiming you are entitled to reclaim your overpaid tax or bank fees. They may also tell you that the refund is taxable and you will have to pay the tax amount before receiving the refund, or that you have to pay a fee to receive your money. The scammer might try to trick you by appearing to have personal information about you.

Overpayment scam

This scam involves someone contacting you to purchase goods and services. They then send you a payment by cheque, money order or credit card for far more than the agreed price. The scammer then asks you to refund the overpayment or to pay the scammer’s ‘freight company’. The scammer is hoping you will transfer the refund or pay for ‘freight’ before you discover that their cheque has bounced or that their money order or credit cards were phony.

Directory entry or unauthorised advertising scam

This scam involves a scammer sending you an invoice by post, fax or email for a listing or advertisement in a magazine, journal or business register which you didn’t authorise or request.

Scammers will send a proposal for a subscription, disguised as an invoice or ‘renewal notice’ for an entry on a questionable website or in a questionable trade directory. Often these businesses are based overseas. It may sound like a ‘free’ entry, but charges can be hidden in the fine print, resulting in demands for payment later.

Office supply scam

This scam involves you receiving and being charged for goods that you did not order. These scams often involve goods or services that you regularly order: paper, printing supplies, maintenance supplies or advertising. You might receive a phone call from someone claiming to be your ‘regular supplier’, telling you that the offer is a ‘special’ or available ‘for a limited time only’. If you agree to buy any of these supplies that are offered to you, they will often be overpriced and bad quality.

Website domain name scam

Under this scam you’ll be sent either an unsolicited invoice or email for an internet domain name registration usually very similar to your own business domain name, or you’ll be sent a renewal notice for your actual domain name. The notice could be from a business that supplies domain names trying to trick you into signing up to their service or it could be from a scammer trying to take your money.

Online transaction scams

Online scams can include:

  • auction & shopping scams
  • spam offers, such as junk mail , or ‘free’ internet offers
  • online banking scams using spyware or key-loggers
  • credit card order scams from overseas.

Many of these scams occur without business owners being aware of them until it’s too late. Always be wary of any offers over the internet promising anything for free, or asking for your bank details.

Grants and assistance scams

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has warned small businesses about government grant scams. Information on applying for government grant and assistance schemes is free for business owners to access – some websites try to charge owners to ‘help’ them apply.

Charity scams

Charity scams often occur around times of emergency, such as after major disasters like floods or fires. Scammers pose as not-for-profit organisations collecting money for victims of these and other disasters . Real charities are registered in their state or territory, and be able to give you full contact details, tax status, and a receipt for your donation.

What to do if you become aware of, or are a victim of a scam

If you are the victim of a scam, the first step to recovering your money is to report it. Even if you spot a scam, there are Australian Government agencies you can contact for advice or to make a report. By reporting the scam to the appropriate government agency, you can help them identify scammers and warn other businesses.

What to do...

  • Report a scam External link if you believe you have been targeted by scammers.
  • Visit the SCAMwatch External link website for up-to-date information on scams targeting small business.
  • If you aren’t sure a business is legitimate, you can check to see if they are registered on ABN Lookup.
  • Download the Scam Buster app External link onto your iPhone or Android™ device, courtesy of NSW Fair Trading.

More information...

  • Download the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC’s) Little black book of scams External link for tips on how to protect your business from scams.

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