CSI: B2B

Most marketers follow FTC happenings to get the latest on legal compliance. But while you’re visiting the Business Center, check out what BCP is doing to protect small businesses in their role as consumers. Getting the inside scoop on how B2B scams work will help you shield your company from fraudsters in the future.

For example, the FTC just mailed out refund checks to small businesses and non-profits ripped off by two telemarketing operations that allegedly tricked them into paying for business directory listings they didn’t order. By falsely claiming the business had already agreed to buy the listings, the defendants got people to pay money they didn’t actually owe.

OK, we’re not expecting the network to sign on for a season of "CSI: Commercial Scam Investigators" — although if you’re interested, have your people call our people — but a behind-the-scenes peek into how these scams operate can clue companies in on what to look for.

The Directory Listing Scam. In this operation, the fraudsters contact businesses claiming to "verify" that a company wants to "renew" its listing. Of course, there’s no existing listing — and maybe not even a real business directory — but the employee who picked up the phone doesn’t know that. Persuasive double-talkers bulldoze them into saying yes and often play back a tape of the call if the company complains. When a business disregards the dunning letters, the bad guys up the ante by threatening to ruin their credit or take them to court. Read Throwing the Book at Business Directory Scams for steps on making sure your staff is wise to this scheme.

The Toner Phoner Flimflam. Every company needs office supplies, but small businesses and non-profits may not have a formal procurement process in place. So when supplies show up at the door, employees pay for them, assuming a colleague must have OKed the buy. The box contains unordered toner cartridges or maybe it’s empty. Either way, the company is left holding the bag — and the bill. Share Avoiding Office Supply Scams with employees and volunteers.

The URL Hustle. "Your web address is about to expire if you don’t pay immediately to renew your registration." That’s enough to send an online marketer into warp speed. Since the invoice emphasizes that time is of the essence, some businesses pay first and ask questions later. Of course, the invoice isn’t from the entities that really handle things like that. It’s from a fraudster, banking on the fact that companies with a web presence will be too busy to investigate. The Dupe of URL suggests practices to reduce the risk of getting stung by a domain name scam.

The Charity Con. Many businesses make it a point to support worthy causes in the community. So when a group claiming to help fire fighters, veterans, police, or kids asks a company to buy space in a calendar or publication, they’re happy to chip in. Of course, crooks cover their tracks by picking names confusingly similar to reputable charities, so it’s hard for businesses to find out they’ve been had. Donating to Public Safety Fundraisers offers tips on making sure your donated dollars wind up with reputable groups.

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