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May 2013:

Businesses Susceptible to Scams, Too

By Angie Barnett

May 6, 2013

Posted in: News

Consumers aren’t the only victims of fraud. Every year, thousands of small businesses are targets of fraudulent or deceptive sales practices. Protect your business from scams by learning what to look out for. Often, it’s only a matter of identifying suspicious situations and asking the right questions.

Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection have put together a list of some of the top business scam situations.

• Business opportunities. Many small business owners are approached to invest in other business opportunities. Promoters may even claim that the venture will increase customer traffic flow into the current business or that little effort is required to collect high profits. But before jumping into a business collaboration, make sure you know the value of the product and its true costs. And always make sure to check out the business at www.bbb.org.

• Charity pitches. Most businesses are regularly asked to donate funds to needy causes, from requests to support the neighborhood’s latest fundraising project to appeals for sizeable charitable contributions. While many requests are legitimate, every year small business people become victims of fraudulent or deceptive charitable solicitation schemes. Make sure to always check out the charity at www.give.org.

• Coupon books. Small business operators are often approached to participate in coupon book promotions. The business offers discounts or extras in the coupon books that are sold by promoters to consumers. Problems occur if the promoters change the terms of the coupons to make them more attractive to buyers, when the books are oversold or when books are primarily distributed outside the firm’s normal business area. Make sure the coupon book is being promoted by someone you trust, and that the terms and conditions are clearly spelled out.

• Overpayment scams. Your firm usually receives an unexpected telephone contact first. Sometimes an advance call is made to find out what brand of supplies or equipment the business uses. On the return call, the caller claims to represent a reputable company with which the firm often does business. The caller may state that surplus merchandise is available at a reduced price due to a cancellation or over-order by another purchaser.

• Don’t be fooled. Accepting this gift may mean other obligations have been accepted as well, and you’ll be left with demands for payment and threats to turn your account over to a collection agency or attorney.

For business tips you can trust, visit www.bbb.org; also check out the Federal Trade Commission web site at www.ftc.gov to learn how you can prevent fraud.

Angie Barnett is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland. She can be reached at 410-347-3990 and abarnett@greatermd.bbb.org.

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