In the social media age, internet scams are pervasive, but business owners often forget to watch out for phone scams. These scams often prey on your fear to pay your bills or your desire to establish your reputation in the community.
Almost 1 in 6 Americans were cheated by scam calls in the last year, per a recent report by the US Spam and Scam Report by Truecaller. Phone scammers long ago perfected their pitches, but technology has made them more innovative in their tactics. Luckily, all Teltik plans come with free Scam ID and Scam Block, which alert you to potential scams and block unwanted calls. However, as they say, knowledge is power, and so to keep you and your employees informed on the latest tactics scammers may use, here are the top ten business phone scams to look out for:
1. Tech Scam Calls
You receive unsolicited calls from “tech support workers” who inform you that you have a computer virus or other issue. These dangerous computer scams often include Microsoft scam calls and Apple scam calls. The tech scammer walks you through various steps to “correct” the issue, but in reality, you’re downloading software that gives the scammer remote access, lets him hijack your system, or installs malware on your device.
Scammers may then gather sensitive data about your business or your customers. They may also install ransomware that makes you pay to unlock your own files.
2. Money Scams
Businesses are often targeted for money scams, from Western Union scams to bank scams and bank fraud.
Bank scams make efforts to access your business bank account. Popular check and bank scams include:
- Overpayment: The scammer sends you a counterfeit check from a bogus associate. Once you deposit the check in your account, you wire the extra back. However, as the check was counterfeit, you lose what you wired and must pay the bank back.
- Check fraud: You receive a check and wonder about its origin. Is it connected to a customer or associate? Many businesses are so busy that they don’t think to ask that question and cash the check anyway. Unfortunately, this may be check fraud. If you cash the check, you can be considered to have authorized the purchase of certain items or signed up for a loan you never applied for.
- Automatic withdrawals: Your business signs up for a free trial with a fake vendor, authorizing an automatic debit from your business’s bank account.
3. Social Hacking Scams
Your customers aren’t the only ones subject to social hacking scams. In the Information Age, businesses are can be tricked into to releasing sensitive information through business social media accounts.
Unfortunately, confidential information can also be given out unintentionally by well-meaning customer service agents through simple manipulation and coercion tactics. Train your representatives to stand their ground when faced with these misleading tactics.
4. Office Supply Scams
Beware the toner pirate who will involve your business in a printer ink scam. Scammers will pretend to be office supply vendors and trick you into paying money you never owed them.
It starts with a questionable call to your business. It sounds innocent enough. A client or associate confirms an order, verifies an address, or offers a free trial of their office supplies. Unordered merchandise arrives at the office, and shortly after, you receive demands to pay for items you never added to your cart.
These are violations of the Unordered Merchandise Statute and the Telemarketing Sales Rule. Sadly, such scams can happen to any business. Recently, in two different actions, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged Maryland-area companies with sending unordered office supplies to businesses and following up with falsified invoices. Fortunately, settlements were reached. Also, note that scammers may offer you a “discount” off the fake invoice total.
5. Business Listing Scams
“Hello, it’s Google/Yellow Pages calling to verify your business listing.” The drone of the monotone voice makes you hesitate, as you want customers to be able to locate your business. It’s the one instance where a call from a bot doesn’t make you hang up at once.
If you did hang up, this puzzling call may lead you to search for “Google verify my business”, which takes you down the rabbit hole of business listing scams. It turns out that scammers will pose as Google or other major business listings in order to make you give over confidential information or make you pay listing fees, while claiming they need to verify your listing or make sure your listing doesn’t get taken down. The Google business listing scam is one of the most popular scams because of the search engine’s popularity, and it’s ability to make or break your business virtually.
Scammer calls will typically revolve around a Google listing update, claiming to need more information for your listing, additional fees to cover costs, or a verification of your business. They may also ask to update your listing in the Yellow Pages. In reality, Google and Yellow Pages listings are free, and they won’t call you to verify listings. In fact, if you get one of these calls, Google wants you to report it to them.
6. Fake Invoice Scams
What do you do when a fake invoice shows up at your physical address or in your inbox? Related to business listing and office supply scams, these “invoices” target you in the hopes you will pay for services or products you didn’t order. You may have had a real interest in certain items, but they are never delivered or have no real value.
Common fake invoice scams and subscription scams include directory listings, compliance services, printer toner, paper, magazine subscriptions and signs. Beware of invoice fraud and billing fraud.
7. Energy Scams and Utility Fraud
Utility scams target businesses threatening to cut off their public utility services or to make an overdue payment. However, your utility company will always notify you in advance, and in writing, regarding a disconnection notice. Never interact with these scammers, or you risk falling for an energy scam and disclosing sensitive information.
In some cases, utility fraudsters will even come to your door. Always ask to see identification.
You can quickly identify a fake utility bill by comparing it to existing bills and calling your provider. Unfortunately, electric bill scams and utility scams are among the most common types of scams to target businesses.
8. Vanity Award Scams
You receive an email indicating that you’re on the INC 5000 list or other business awards that sound prestigious. What business wouldn’t call back?
Local area business award scams are easier to identify than “national” awards. One tell-tale giveaway is when the scammer asks you buy awards. You shouldn’t have to buy your own business awards. Some of these are not truly scams, as you will get the award in the end, however there’s no real value in having an award that you’ve paid for yourself. It’s better to spend your money on something that will actually help your business’s professional image, such as a dedicated business line.
9. Appraisal Fraud
According to a 2016 Report, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) states that businesses lose approximately 5% of revenue to financial misstatement annually. Small businesses are often more vulnerable to valuation fraud because they have less system checks in place.
It’s wise to conduct a business valuation every year to know where your business stands in terms of its value and place in the market. Scammers know this and take advantage of small businesses, often starting with a commercial property appraisal and working their way into your business to steal sensitive information.
10. Charity Scams
Businesses often make doing public good a part of their mission statement. Unfortunately, companies can fall prey to scammers who run donation scams and charity scams.
Many times, fake charities target businesses after a tragedy, such as a natural disaster. Your desire to help your community may end up with you giving money to 501(c)(3) fraud instead of providing real relief. You can prevent donation scams by researching charities online through websites such as Guidestar and Charity Navigator.
How to Block Scams and Scam Calls
How do you stop scam calls in the Information Age when scammers are even more innovative in their theft attempts? Begin with educating yourself and your staff about these top ten business phone scams. After all, prevention is the best medicine.
You can also have technology to block scam calls through screening. All of Teltik’s phone plans offer Scam ID, which displays “Scam Likely” when a scam call comes in. We also offer Scam Block, which automatically blocks scam calls so you don’t waste your valuable time on scammers.
Illegal caller ID spoofing is on the rise and an industry-wide adoption of standards to stop such calls are necessary to prevent fraud as technology continues to advance. Fortunately, STIR (Secure Telephony Identity Revisited) and SHAKEN (Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs) standards are being implemented by many business phone plan providers. Each call with be authenticated through the new standards and greatly reduce the degree of scam calls, but vigilance by business owners remains the best effort for defense.