Business scams

Scammers rely on the fact that you’re very busy and are more likely to hand over your personal information without thinking. We’ve put together some helpful information for your business.

What to do if you have been scammed

If you believe you have been scammed or been the victim of cybercrime, you need to do five things immediately.

  1. Stop any contact with the scammer. The scammer will never refund your money.
  2. If a scammer or cybercriminal has your bank or credit card details, contact the bank or credit card organisation to freeze your accounts before the scammer steals your money
  3. Write down any details you get about the scammer like their telephone number, email address, website address or car registration number if the person has knocked on your door. These details can help NSW Fair Trading detect scammers, or close down the ways in which scammers are contacting people.
  4. Report the scam or cybercrime immediately to the relevant agency. Every day you delay, more people may be scammed.
  5. Tell your colleagues friends and family about your experience and what you have done about it.

Types of scams

Scammers target businesses in a range of ways and you need to be vigilant so you are not scammed.

False billing or invoice fraud

False billing targets businesses by telephone, mail, email and fax. The scammer will supply you with an invoice for products or services you have not ordered or received, hoping, because you’re busy and will just pay the invoice.

To report false billing schemes, lodge an online complaint.

Advertising and directory listings

A representative from a magazine or directory calls and asks for you by name and then falsely claims that they spoke to you several months earlier and you agreed to purchase an advertisement or a directory listing. Often you will be asked for a special code or word, which is later used against you as proof that you agreed to purchase the advertising. Sometimes they will falsely claim the magazine is about to go to print and if you don't pay immediately, you’ll miss the print deadline. You may receive an invoice demanding money for an advertisement in a magazine or to re-new an entry in a business directory that you have never heard of.

Domain name renewal scam

A domain name must be renewed every couple of years. Domain name renewal scams can work in one of two ways. You might be sent an invoice for a domain name that is very similar to your current domain name but might for example end in instead of – the scammer hopes that you don’t notice the difference and just pay the invoice. Or you could be sent a letter that looks like a renewal notice for your actual domain name, but is from a different company to the one you registered your domain with.

Computer virus scams (the Microsoft scam)

A scammer calls you claiming to be a representative from a reputable information technology firm. The scammer asks you to turn on your computer and provide certain information, so that the scammer can take control of your computer and get your banking details.

Banking, credit card and online account scams

These scams aim to get you to hand over your banking, business and personal information by sending you emails, often saying they are from your bank, asking you to verify your account details, including your password.

Telephone scams (telemarketing fraud)

Telephone scams are also known as ‘blowing’ or telemarketing fraud. Scammers convince you that:

  • you placed an order some time ago, they ‘lost’ the order number so you supply a new one
  • you had taken out advertising or a directory listing (in a non-existent publication) and they were just chasing up urgent payment
  • a colleague had approved the deal (using a name from your office)
  • they are a representative from a government department demanding money you allegedly owe.

Business opportunity scam

Business opportunity scams are sent through spam email, a phone call or letter. The offer could be a scam if you:

  • are required to make an upfront payment
  • have to recruit other people to the scheme (pyramid schemes)
  • pay for a system to make money that does not work.

Be wary if the business offering the opportunity only provides a post office box address.

Fax back scam

A fax back scam is an unsolicited fax that can offer you anything from amazing diets to fantastic deals, business directory entries, competition entries or catalogues of goods and services – all you have to do is send a fax back to a premium rate number (starting with 190). Premium rate faxes can be charged at more than $6 per minute. The scammers make sure your fax will take several minutes to get through, resulting in hefty, unnecessary phone bills (a single fax could cost you $20 or $30).

Overseas scam

You should be alert for suspicious deals offered by overseas organisations. In one scam, people claiming to be representatives of the Nigerian Government targeted firms with the proposal of depositing money into their bank accounts. In return for allowing use of that account, the firm was supposed to receive a substantial share of the funds.

To take part in the deal, the business was required to supply blank copies of its letterhead, a stamped and signed invoice and bank account details. However, just before they received their share of the funds, business owners were asked for a ‘tax’ or cash to cover last minute expenses or bribes. The businesses lost $250,000 to more than $1 million and never received their promised share of the other money.

How do scammers get my details?

A lot of information you may consider personal is actually public knowledge. Details including your  address, family relationships, date of birth, and business details can be discovered through the electoral roll, telephone listings and websites.

Avoiding scams

Scammers thrive on uncertainty and target poorly organised businesses.

To avoid scams:

  • never send money or give credit card, account, business or personal details to anyone who makes unsolicited offers or requests information.
  • don’t open unsolicited emails or click on a link provided in an unsolicited email as it will probably lead to a fake website designed to trick you into providing personal details.
  • have clear purchasing and advertising policies and keep proper records
  • don’t approve purchases over the phone – get them in writing first (a quote or issue a purchase order number to all suppliers)
  • don’t respond to offers, deals or requests for your business or personal details without taking the time to independently check the request or offer.
  • check the details of any new trader before doing business including their Australian Business Number (ABN)
  • check company registration, lodgement of company documents and the banned or disqualified directors’ register
  • check business registrations by calling the Australian Securities and Investments Commission on 1300 300 630
  • check community organisations registrations by calling Fair Trading on 13 32 20
  • when considering advertising, ask for copies of previous editions and check the publication’s circulation with the Audit Bureau of Circulations
  • never give out or clarify information about your business unless you know what it will be used for
  • carefully read all the terms and conditions of any offers as they may have hidden costs
  • limit the number of people who can approve spending and train staff to identify and deal with fraud
  • get professional help (accountant/solicitor) if significant money, time or responsibilities are involved
  • you should only pay for advertising that has been authorised in writing by your company. If an advertising invoice does not contain circulation details, the publishers business name and address, or the details of the advertisement date and charges, do not pay it until you investigate if further.

Reporting cybercrimes

If you have been the victim of a cybercrime, such as hacking, an online scam or fraud, identity theft, an attack on your computer system or if you are aware of illegal or prohibited online content, you can report it to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN). ACORN will make sure your report goes to the right law enforcement or government agency for consideration.

Reporting scams and fraud

You do not need to lose money to report a scam. If the scam starts in NSW or you know the name of the business or trader and they are located in the state, you can report the scam to Fair Trading online through lodge a complaint, call 13 32 20

If the scam is from outside NSW or overseas you can report it to SCAMwatch. SCAMwatch is a website run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognise, avoid and report scams.

Prev Advertising and marketing your business
Next Service stations