The ACCC is warning small business owners about false billing scams after the recently released 2013 Targeting scams report revealed a 45 per cent increase in complaints about these scams.

Principal Update - Issue 4 - July 2014

“False billing scams continue to be the most common scam targeting the small business community, with 3,672 reports received in 2013 and almost $725,000 reported lost,” ACCC Deputy Chairman Dr Michael Schaper said in the media release.

False billing scams attempt to trick busy businesses into paying for unwanted or unauthorised listings or advertisements in magazines, journals or business directories.

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,” Dr Schaper said. “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.”

Dr Schaper has offered small businesses this advice on avoiding false billing scams:

  • Make sure the business you are 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 sourced independently through a phone book or online search.
  • Make your business ‘fraud-free’ – effective management procedures can go a long way towards preventing scams. Have a clearly defined process for verifying and paying accounts and invoices, and try to avoid giving too many staff authorisation to make orders or pay invoices.
  • Don’t be intimidated – do not 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.

ACCC education campaign

Ongoing education and awareness-raising are critical components of the ACCC’s approach to preventing harm from scams. The ACCC Small Business team is running an education campaign to raise awareness about scams so businesses are empowered with the knowledge and skills
to identify and avoid falling victim to false billing or any other scams.

Below are details of ACCC materials that may be of assistance:

SCAMwatch warning video about false billing scams: available on the ACCC’s You Tube Channel

Publications: read the ACCC’s Small business scams factsheet or 2013 Targeting scams report

Website: the SCAMwatch website provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognise, avoid and report scams

Scam email alerts: sign up for free SCAMwatch radar alerts to remain up-to-date with common scams and current scam trends

Twitter: there will be a number of tweets from @SCAMwatch_gov about small business scams.  If you don’t already do so, you might like to follow @SCAMwatch_gov to receive and share these tweets.