Beware Of False Billing Scams
Business owners are being warned to beware of fake bills that are scamming more and more people.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has just revealed that false billing scams rose a disturbing 45 per cent last year. Fake bills are the most common scam targeting the small business community with more than $725,000 reported lost, said ACCC deputy chairman Dr Michael Schaper.
The typical scam involves attempting to trick businesses into paying invoices for advertisements in magazines, journals or directories that were never ordered. Another common scam is to bill businesses for renewal of a non-existent domain name registration.
The scammers often use the end of the financial year to target businesses with fake invoices for renewals or registrations that aren’t real. The ACCC has some sage advice:
* Make sure the business you are dealing with is dinky-di: if you get an invoice or bill you are not sure of, contact the sender directly to check they are who they say they are and the bill is genuine. Hot tip – get their address or phone number from an independent source, not the one on the invoice.
* Make your business fraud-free by having a clear process for verifying and paying accounts and invoices.
* Don’t be intimidated or pushed into paying until you are certain it is legit. If you are unsure seek independent legal or financial advice.
* Update your IT security software regularly.
If you have been hit by a scammer there are legal avenues that can be pursued and it is worth getting legal advice. Last year the Federal Court fined a publishing company $750,000 for making false and misleading representations about advertising services that were never requested.
Six months ago a company that sold ink cartridges for printers was fined $50,000 after it was found the company deceived businesses by rigging the cartridges so they ran out of ink too quickly.
Businesses aren’t the only ones who need to be on the lookout for scammers. Many people looking for love on the Internet have also been ripped off by cruel and heartless scammers. The ACCC said dating and romance related fraud rose eight per cent in 2013 and ripped $27 million from folk looking for love. The average loss to scammers promising love was $20,000 – three times higher than in other types of scams. Unfortunately little can be done to get the money back as the love scammers are usually based overseas. Sadly, even less can be done legally to help mend a broken heart.