By DANA DITTMAR
Our local community resource officer, Deputy Jeff Merry, gives seminars on the topic of scams affecting our local residents every month. Unfortunately all too often it’s our small business owners who are also the victims of the clever deceptions.
Like the one in Monroe, La., where a small plumbing company narrowly escaped a widespread phishing scam when they received an e-mail from the Better Business Bureau claiming a customer complaint had been filed against them.
Believing it to be legitimate, they clicked on the link, which downloaded multiple viruses on two of their computers. Fortunately, they had systems in place that detected the bugs and removed them.
Phishing scams appear to be legitimate. They come from reputable entities such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Microsoft, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or the Better Business Bureau. Remember, those entities don’t contact anyone via e-mail. The downloaded viruses capture credit-card numbers, social-security numbers and bank details.
Another common scam that affects residents and businesses alike is the “over payment” scam. You list something for sale on Craig’s List, or your store is selling a certain item. The buyer sends you a check that is “accidentally” over the asking price. The buyer asks you to deposit the check and return the overage. But the check — even a certified one — bounces, and you are out the whole amount.
Also be careful of phone calls from anyone professing to be with the Yellow Pages, asking you to verify your address, phone number, etc. for their directory. The business is then billed for a listing or an ad the company never requested. When the business refuses to pay, the scammer threatens legal action. Legitimate Yellow Pages representatives do not operate this way. Think about it — if the phone book company calls you to verify your phone number and if they just dialed it, don’t they already have it?
This next one sounds safe, but can actually cost you some dollars. You come into the office one morning and find an unsolicited fax in your machine offering you amazing deals on health insurance, office supplies, landscaping, you name it. But if you fax the sheet back, it goes to a premium number, which charges you a few dollars per minute for a fax that will take a good while to go through. Look for the number — the premium rate service number is 190. Don’t dial it.
These are but a few of the scams out there targeting small businesses. I’m sure Deputy Merry can tell us of many others. New ones pop up every day. Keep in mind the old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.