​​​​​​​Highland businesses urged to be on scam alert.

Highland Council Trading Standards team have recently seen an increase in scams targeting Highland businesses.

The most common scams reported by businesses relate to marketing and publishing but other frauds such as those involving demands for payment for unsolicited goods sent to businesses (such as ink cartridges which were never ordered) are also on the rise.  

Highland Council Trading Standards want all businesses and their employees to be on their guard when responding to phone calls, text messages, emails or faxes in case they are duped into entering a contract. 

What scams should business and employees look out for?

Publishing or business directory scam 

Probably one of the most prevalent scams affecting UK businesses is the business directory scam.  Scammers have moved on from paper directory listings to online directories or listings.  One of the most common scams is from callers purporting to be associated with “Google”.   The caller may offer to improve your search ranking or manage your business’s online profile.  “Google” does not charge for inclusion in “Google My Business” or in “Google Search”.  Likewise “Google” will never ask a registered business for their password or verification code and they advise businesses to never provide sensitive information about your account to a caller.  

As a business you can add your business information to Google Maps, Search and other Google properties by creating a “Google My Business” listing for free.  Information on how to create a Google My Business listing can be found at: https://www.google.com/business

Unsolicited goods

Scammers sometimes send unsolicited goods to businesses and then, having waited long enough for the business to either use or dispose of goods, they then send an invoice.

The goods are often of poor quality, and the prices are usually well above fair market value.  Usually, this scam involves business consumables that are cheap for the scammer to obtain, such as stationery, till rolls, generic ink printer cartridges and cleaning products.

In some variations of this scam, the rogue trader supplies an order and some months later, says they have made a mistake and there are some items still to be supplied.  Businesses may be knocked off guard, and agree to the offer of the remaining items to be supplied.  They may also receive a money off voucher as a gesture of goodwill to make up for the supposed mistake.  However, it is common for unsuspecting businesses, to use the goods supplied and a short time later received an invoice for a vastly increased sum.  The scam business then may continue to demand payment for goods that they claim that they have legitimately supplied.

Bogus invoices and demands for payment

The simplest and most blatant scam is that, without any prior contact, you receive a bogus invoice.  The bogus invoice might be for adverts in fictitious publications or charity wallcharts/planners or for goods that do not exist or for other fictitious services that the scammer claims to have provided.  This type of scam is a very crude “hit or miss” approach but unfortunately a surprising number of businesses who fall victim to this type of scam, pay the invoice without question, particularly if the amount involved is relatively small.

Unfortunately, your business is more likely to become a repeat victim of this type of scam if you do pay and you may be opening your business up to a series of scams either by telephone, email or even text or through social media e.g. Facebook

How to protect your business against marketing scams

  • Always carefully read the small print in any business invoice or communication that you receive.
  • Warn your staff to be on the look out for scam emails, invoices and telephone calls to your business.  Never enter a contract during an unsolicited call to your business.  Always ask the caller to contact you by email or in writing. If they refuse to supply information in this manner then put the phone down!
  • Don’t be pressured into paying for services or goods that have you have not agreed to or have not been provided. 
  • If you receive demands for payments for something you believe you have not ordered, send a written reply, stating clearly why you feel you do not owe any money.  Always keep a copy for your records.
  • If you are threatened with a debt collection or a credit ‘black-listing’, remember that ultimately only a court can decide whether you are liable to pay and disputes with other businesses would not necessarily affect your credit rating.

Always seek legal advice before responding to such demands.

High pressured sales calls – goods and services

You should also be on guard for persistent calls from high pressure sales teams.  Although the business caller may be offering a legitimate service or goods, you do not want to be pressurised into entering a contract without looking over their business terms and conditions first.     

For instance, recently Highland Trading Standards has become aware that some Highland businesses, (who are currently advertising their business for sale) have received unsolicited calls from a commercial estate agency business.  If you are thinking of selling your business you should always seek out local competition as well before going ahead. Agreeing to such a contract over the telephone or even by email or text could be costly as you will, in all likelihood, not be able to cancel the contract at a later stage, without incurring a hefty cancellation fee or other costs relating to a potential breach of contract claim.  Such costs could add up to thousands of pounds.

If you are buying any goods or services for your business you should always ask the caller to contact you by email or in writing with a quote so you can look over their business terms and conditions before you enter into a contract.  

Concerned businesses can obtain further information or advice on business scams, by contacting Highland Council Trading Standards on 01463 228700 or by email to trading.standards@highland.gov.uk  or by contacting us through our facebook page at: https://en-gb.facebook.com/HCTradingStandards/

An A to Z of scams and frauds can also be found at Action Fraud at: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/types_of_fraud

For further Highland Trading Standards news please go to: www.highland.gov.uk/tradingstandardsnews

 

 

9 Jan 2018
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