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Scram, Scam Some con artists make a habit of ripping off businesses. Here's how to make a habit of thwarting them.

By Jenny Kee

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), every yearbusinesses lose millions of dollars to con artists through a hostof different scams. It's easy for multitasked entrepreneurs toget swindled into paying phony invoices, footing the bill onunordered merchandise or agreeing to deals that are almost alwaystoo good to be true. "What happens many times is that businessowners are so busy and usually have so many expenses to pay everymonth that they do not inspect carefully what they are payingfor," notes Steve Bernas, director of operations at the BBB inChicago.

The best way to protect yourself is to know what to watch outfor. The most common scams that target business owners, accordingto the BBB, arethe following:

  • Advance-fee loan brokers. These people assure youthey'll find you a loan-but mandate that you first submit an"advance fee" for the broker to prepare a business planand do the legwork. More often than not, the loan broker takes yourmoney and makes no effort to find the needed capital.
  • Phony invoices. This is a biggie, and it can take manyforms. With this scam, you receive a bill for merchandise orservices that you either never ordered or never received. And ifyou don't know better, you might end up paying the bill-orpaying to return the item-thinking you forgot about the order orare somehow obligated to pay.
  • Office supply pirates. With this scam, a common approachis to claim "liquidation of stock" or "going out ofbusiness" prices on office supplies. The merchandise, ifdelivered at all, is typically shoddy and overpriced, or you mightwind up with twice the amount ordered.
  • The vanity pitch. With this one, you get a letterclaiming you've been chosen to appear in a special publication(such as a Who's Who-type book) or receive a special reward. Ifyou buy the pitch, you could wind up with a subscription fee, acharge for the listing or a hefty bill for the publication-whichprobably won't receive the kind of widespread distribution youthought it would.

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