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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > June 2016 > Helping Small Businesses to Avoid Becoming Targets

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Helping Small Businesses to Avoid Becoming Targets

Imagine investing thousands of dollars into your own small business and then being targeted by scammers. Scams can deprive small businesses of valuable time and money. Therefore, if you operate, own, or work for a small business, watch for scams that may come your way.

One scam targeting small businesses involves billing a business for products it never ordered.  The scammers may simply send a phony invoice, hoping someone pays the bill. Or they may offer free or low-cost products, and then send an invoice demanding a significantly larger payment. If your business receives a product it never ordered, you shouldn’t have to pay for it.

Also be skeptical if someone contacts your business seeking money for compliance or fees. Scammers often send requests for money using official-sounding names (such as “Business Compliance Division”) from government agencies that don’t actually exist. Con artists also may call posing as real agencies or companies, such as the IRS or your utility provider, and demand immediate payment for back taxes or fees. The callers may even threaten to have you arrested or to shut off your utilities if you do not immediately pay. These are all ploys to play on your fears. 

Another scam, reported by the Better Business Bureau, involves con artists posing as the “American Chamber of Commerce.” They hope that businesses think it is the similar-sounding and legitimate U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The scammer pretends to be updating a listing in a directory and asks for basic information such as the name of the business, address, contacts, and phone numbers. In reality, the scammer is preparing to use the information for such purposes as invoice scams and identity theft.

Some tips for small businesses to steer clear of scams:
  • Be skeptical of free trials or too-good-to-be-true prices. Look for fine print that may be enrolling you into a “club” or other program that requires future purchases at regular intervals.
  • Centralize your office billing so that someone can recognize unfamiliar invoices to avoid paying fake invoices. 
  • Be extremely cautious when someone demands immediate payment, whether by phone or mail. Take time to look up the organization and contact it using a number that you know to be correct before making any payments.
  • Never provide or confirm business information over the phone unless you know the caller is legitimate. When in doubt, just hang up.
  • Educate staff members about scams, especially if they have contact with visitors and businesses over the phone, online, or in person. Inform them about the red flags of a scam.
  • Report potential scams to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Just as it helps individuals resolve disputes about products or services, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office also offers informal dispute resolution services to help small businesses and nonprofits detect scams and resolve problems.

Hundreds of organizations have filed complaints about a variety of issues, ranging from billing disputes to problems with the quality of products or services. Through dispute resolution, specialists work with both parties to help reach a resolution, saving some small businesses hundreds or thousands of dollars.
To report a scam or to file a complaint, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office by visiting or call 800-282-0515.