If you think it can't happen to you, you're wrong. Even seasoned entrepreneurs are suckered by scam artists. "Because small businesses often don't have those layers and layers of protective procedures, one person may be handling purchasing and invoices, and that person may not have much experience in implementing checks and double-checks," Berry explains.
Rooker points out that some businesses may be more at risk than others. Many con artists target companies that have recently moved or opened a new office. In addition, Berry adds that scams are more prevalent during the winter holidays or over the summer, when employees tend to be on vacation and someone other than the regular manager or bookkeeper may be handling orders or payments.
Overall, says Berry, the best offense is a good defense. He advises that no matter how small your business is, you should educate your employees--especially those who answer phones, order supplies and pay bills--about how to recognize common scams. It helps to discuss prevalent ruses and post them around your place of business. Institute a system of documenting orders and checking invoices against those orders. Never buy over the phone unless you've established a relationship with a particular vendor. And always check unknown parties with the BBB to see if any complaints have been filed. Says Berry, "It's awfully hard to get your money back once it's been lost."
If you've been victimized by a scam or need more information on preventing scams, these organizations can help:
- Better Business Bureau
- Call for Action Inc.
- Imaging Supplies Coalition for International Intellectual Property Protection Inc.
- National Fraud Information Center
- Preston Gates & Ellis LLP
(206) 467-2839, www.prestongates.com
- The Fish Market Restaurant
(205) 322-3330, www.thefishmarket.net