01.Don't fall for false bills
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has issued a warning to small businesses about false billing scams, which attempt to trick busy small businesses into paying invoices for unwanted or unauthorised services.
The move comes after the consumer regulator’s Targeting Scams Report revealed a 45% increase in complaints in 2013, with businesses taking issue with bills for unwanted listings or ads in magazines, journals or business directories.
“False billing scams continue to be the most common scam targeting the small business community, with 3672 reports received in 2013 and almost $725,000 reported lost,” ACCC Deputy Chairman Dr Michael Schaper said. “With the end of the financial year being a prime time to settle accounts, it pays to take a moment and check if invoices are the real deal.
“Often a scam is disguised as an outstanding invoice to get the business to sign up for unwanted advertising or office supplies. Another common approach involves sending invoices for the renewal of a non-existent domain name registration.”
ACCC takes action
The ACCC has been taking action in the past few months against traders targeting small businesses with misleading and deceptive conduct and engaging in “scam-like” practices.
- In February 2013, the Federal Court made declarations by consent that a former director of Crimeguard International Security Systems Pty Ltd was involved in a pyramid selling scheme. The court made an order banning the former director from managing a company for five years.
- In March 2013, the Federal Court ordered Adepto Publications Pty Ltd, its sole owner and a former manager to pay penalties totalling $750,000 after they admitted to making made false and misleading representations about advertising services that were never requested. The operators also falsely claimed that the advertising services were for publications with a philanthropic slant.
- In December 2013, the Federal Court ordered the sole director and the sales manager of Artorios Ink to pay a penalty of $50,000 each after they admitted to deliberately misleading and deceiving small businesses to generate ink cartridge sales.
Top tips for businesses to avoid false billing scams
- Make sure the business you're dealing with is the real deal. If you receive a form or tax invoice out of the blue, verify who they are by contacting the company directly using contact details you source independently.
- Don’t let anyone pressure you into making decisions involving payments or contracts. If you are unsure, always seek independent financial or legal advice.
- Update your IT security software regularly and make sure you use and offer secure online payment methods.