​​​​​​​Council advises businesses on how to spot and avoid being scammed

Highland Council Trading Standards have produced guidance on how to spot the signs of scams that target businesses and also remind businesses to inform their employees on what to look out for when dealing with unsolicited telephone calls, emails and texts.

All businesses as well as non-profit organisations (such as charitable organisations) may spend a lot of time dealing with potential scammers.  Businesses are encouraged to adopt a ‘Learn’; ‘Report’ and ‘Engage’ strategy when tackling scams as follows:

  • LEARN the signs of a scam
  • REPORT scams as soon as they have been spotted
  • ENGAGE with employees and colleagues when a scam is spotted to raise awareness and promote future prevention.

The advice from Trading Standards is:

Scammers' tactics – how to spot them

  • Scammers pretend to be someone you trust. They may pretend to be connected to a government agency or reputable company.
  • Scammers create a sense of urgency. They will try to rush you into making a quick decision.
  • Scammers use untraceable payment methods such as payment through wire transfers, reloadable cards, or gift cards that are nearly impossible to reverse or track.

Train employees

The best defence against being scammed is an informed workforce.  Businesses should:

  • Explain to staff how scams happen and share information on scams.
  • Encourage people to talk with their co-workers if they spot a scam. An alert from one employee about a scam can help prevent others from being deceived.
  • Train employees not to send passwords or sensitive information by email. DON’T ever ask for sensitive data from employees by email.

Verify invoices and payments

  • Businesses should check all invoices closely and NEVER pay unless the bill is for items that your business has actually ordered and/or delivered. 
  • Limit the number of people who are authorised to place orders and pay invoices.   
  • Review procedures regularly to make sure major spending can’t be triggered by an unexpected call, email, or invoice. 
  • Scammers prefer if payments cannot be traced so be aware when asked to pay by a bank transfer, wire transfer, reloadable card, or gift card.

Be tech-savvy

  • Imposters often use fake caller ID information so you’ll be more likely to believe them when they claim to be a government agency or a vendor you trust.
  • Don’t open attachments or download files from unexpected emails; they may have viruses that can harm your computer.
  • Secure your organisation’s files, passwords, and financial information.

Know who you’re dealing with

  • Before doing business with a new company, search the company’s name online with the term “scam” or “complaint.” Read what others are saying about that company.
  • When it comes to products and services for your business, ask for recommendations from other business owners in your community. Positive word-of-mouth from trustworthy people is more reliable than any sales pitch.

Some common scams that target small businesses can include:

  • Fake invoices
  • Unordered office supplies and other products being delivered and then billed for.
  • Directory listing and advertising scams
  • Utility company imposter scams – scammers who pretend to be from a gas, electricity or water company who may say that your service is about to be interrupted.
  • Government agency imposter scams – scammers who threaten to suspend licenses, impose fine or even take legal action if fees are not paid.
  • Tech support scams – either a call or an alarming pop-up message pretending to be from a well-known company, telling you there is a problem with your computer security. Their goal is to get your money, access to your computer, or both.   
  • Changing online reviews - some scammers claim they can replace negative reviews of your product or service.   Also posting fake reviews is illegal. Endorsements - including reviews - must reflect the honest opinions and experiences of the endorser. 
  • Boosting your online profile - scammers also claim that they can boost your online business profile with well-known search engine companies or even claim to be acting on their behalf.   Boosting your business profile can only be done through contacting the listing platform directly.

Further advice and help

For more tips on protecting your organisation from scams visit CTSI Business Companion website at: https://www.businesscompanion.info/

If you spot a scam, report it to Action Fraud at:  https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/reporting-fraud-and-cyber-crime.   Your report can help stop the scam.

For further advice on how to protect you and your staff from cyber-attacks go to Scottish Business Resilience Centre: https://www.sbrcentre.co.uk/

For other business advice enquiries contact Highland Council Trading Standards on telephone number 01463 228700 (Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm) or by Email: trading.standards@highland.gov.uk


7 Jan 2019