BBB Business Tips: Common Business Scams

Here are some of the most common business scams and advice on how you can avoid falling prey to them, brought to you by Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland.

Scams can impact every business, regardless of location, size or industry. With everything that businesses have had to face over the last few years, from COVID to supply chain issues, being scammed does not need to be on the list. Learn to identify common scams to help protect you, your team and your business.  

Some of the most common business scams include:

Phishing scams. Phishing scams attempt to steal sensitive information about your business. These scams often appear to be legitimate emails or text messages. However, when you click on the link, you download a virus that captures personal information or loads a form that asks for bank account or credit card details. Be leery of unsolicited messages and don’t click on links. Instead, hover over the link with your cursor to see the real address. 

Business Email Compromise (“BEC”). Business email compromise fraud is an email phishing scam that typically targets people who pay bills in businesses, government and nonprofit organizations. It has resulted in more losses than any other type of fraud in the U.S., according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

In BEC fraud, the scammer poses as a vendor, CEO, or other trusted source who sends an email to you or your employees. The email asks them to wire money, buy gift cards or send personal information, often for a plausible reason. If money is sent, it goes into an account controlled by the con artist.

Brand hijacking. Scammers often pretend to be legitimate companies to trick consumers. Scammers set up fake websites and “hijack” your company name and address. They may also misuse your company logos and website content in order to impersonate a business and deceive unsuspecting visitors. In this con, the legitimate company doesn’t necessarily lose money, but its reputation is on the line when angry customers who were ripped off by scammers think the real company is responsible.

Phony invoices. Businesses often receive fake invoices demanding payment for products or services they never ordered or received. This most commonly includes office supplies, websites, domain hosting services and directory listings. Often, if you read the fine print it identifies “the bill” as a solicitation. 

Directory scams. Con artists attempt to fool businesses into paying for a listing or ad space in a non-existent directory. In some cases, the directory will technically exist, but won’t be distributed to potential customers. Scammers might even impersonate legitimate directories including Yellow Pages. Either way, the business is billed for listing.

Office supply scams. Businesses receive an unexpected telephone call from someone claiming to represent a reputable company with which the firm often does business.  Sometimes scammers will even call in advance to find out what brand of supplies or equipment the business uses. The scam caller will try to sell the business surplus merchandise at a reduced price, citing a cancellation or over-order by another purchaser. The merchandise doesn’t exist. Don’t be fooled.

Vanity award scams. A vanity award scheme capitalizes on a company's excitement for an award that essentially holds no value. This con typically targets business owners through email campaigns. The scam email congratulates the owner on their selection for the award and invites them to click a link for further details on how to claim the prize. But of course, claiming the honor involves paying several hundred dollars. Always research the organization offering the “award.” 

BBB offers the following tips to help businesses protect themselves from fraud:

Train your employees. Keep your staff up to date on the latest scams and red flags. If your staff is involved in a workplace scam encourage them to come forward so your company can act swiftly and appropriately. 

Keep good records. Keep documentation of all orders and purchases. This will help you to detect bogus accounts and invoices.

Be extra careful with payment procedures. Establish payment authorization procedures, including a multi-person approval process for transactions above a certain dollar threshold.

Avoid some payment methods when possible. Wire transfers, pre-paid debit cards, cryptocurrencies and gift cards are scammers’ preferred methods of payment. Always confirm that any request for payment with untraceable methods such as these is verified by an authorized source. 

Double-check vendors. Make sure that the business billing you is a business you’re familiar with and normally do business with. If not, question it. Get the name of the person you speak with, the company name, address, phone, website, etc. 

Protect your devices. Make sure your devices are up to date with the proper computer protection software and a firewall. Don’t click on links inside unsolicited e-mails. They could spread malicious software or viruses.

Have a plan. No one wants to get scammed, but what happens when you do? It is important to create a recovery plan in case your system gets compromised, you lose sensitive information, or lose money. Know what to do before it happens.

For additional tips and resources, visit BBB.org to help keep your small business thriving. Contact your Better Business Bureau by calling 216.241.7678 or emailing info@cleveland.bbb.org. Interested in becoming BBB Accredited? Find out how you can apply for BBB Accreditation.


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  • Next up: Connecting Diversity & Inclusion with Sustainability
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  • Connecting Diversity & Inclusion with Sustainability

    Watch GCP's recent webinar, Connecting Diversity & Inclusion with Sustainability.

    In a recent webinar, the Greater Cleveland Partnership's Nicole Stika, Vice President, Energy Services, discussed the Intersection of Equity & Inclusion and Sustainability in the Workplace with Melanie Larkins, Product Sustainability Leader, Tarkett USA Inc., and Monica Jackson, Vice President, Global Inclusion & Diversity, Eaton.

    Watch the webinar recording below:

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  • Next up: A COVID check in: Tips for your small business
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  • A COVID check in: Tips for your small business

    Two years after the start of the global pandemic, it's clear that COVID has changed the way we do business. Now is a good time to make any necessary changes to help your small business successfully navigate uncertain times.

     

    It has officially been two years since the start of COVID. As we begin this third year in a pandemic world, it may be the perfect time to take stock of your current business, review what happened over last couple of years, and make any necessary changes and improvements for success. 

    The pandemic has drastically changed the way we do business. From supply chain issues to employee issues to safety issues, our world has been altered, and not always in a good way. We are dealing with challenges we never anticipated and as a small business, that can be devastating.

    Here are some suggestions that may help you to navigate these stressful times:

    1. Review your current business plan. Now is a great time to review your current business plan and make any necessary changes. A business plan is a fluid instrument and should be reviewed periodically and revised when needed. Since there have been so many unforeseen issues in the past year or two, take some time to revisit your plan and determine what changes may need to be implemented.

    >> RELATED: Start your year off with a plan.

    2. Define your goals. This gives you a framework for the year. It can be something as simple as hiring new employees, enhancing your company culture, or improving your online presence. You decide what is best for your business.

    3. Think about how you can increase your business momentum. This can include launching a new product or service or just changing the way you offer current products or services. 

    4. Review your employee situation. Do you need to hire more staff or invest in staff training? Reevaluate your employees and determine if you can promote from within or if you need to hire or even to reduce your staff.

    5. Evaluate your financial situation. This is a great time to assess your financial situation. Do you need to reinvest in your company or maybe find financial assistance? Determine what has been profitable for you and see how you can make that work even harder for your bottom line. 

    6. Organize. Organize. Organize. This includes office space, files, ways of doing business and anything else. It will make it much easier to do business and it may even invigorate your employees.

    7. Expand your horizons. Is there a class you can take or a new certification you can earn? Continuing to learn can help you to grow your business. 

    8. Ramp up your digital presence. The digital world is here to stay and it is a wonderful tool for small business growth. Take the time to post on social media, send out email blasts or build your website. If you can’t do it yourself, there are many people or businesses out there that can help. Maybe you can even trade for their services.

    >> RELATED: Read more by Tim Dimoff 

    9. Grow your network. Get active in your industry associations or local chambers of commerce. Build a presence on social media site such as LinkedIn and connect with others within your industry.

    10. Avoid burnout. The pandemic has been especially hard on small businesses, and you have may have worked 80-hour weeks to keep going. Take time to avoid burnout and to make sure you are rested and recharged.

    While we don’t know what this year has in store for us, we do know that it most likely will continue to be a challenging time. These suggestions may help you to navigate it and may even contribute to your success.

    President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security ExpertTimothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com

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  • Next up: Employee Retention Challenges and Solutions
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  • Employee Retention Challenges and Solutions

    Does your small business struggle to hire or retain excellent employees? Here are nine suggestions for keeping top talent.

     

    As a small business you should be aware of exactly how you are actively supporting your employees’ overall success. The pandemic has shown us that employees are looking for new and better opportunities all the time and that small businesses are struggling to hire and retain employees. Whether it be to thrive in their current role at your organization or to prepare them for their next career advancement, it is your responsibility to make sure your employees grow and thrive in their jobs. Ensuring your team is equipped with the latest knowledge and skills in their field will definitely contribute to your business’s long-term success. Constant employee turnover is costly and time consuming, therefore investing both mentally and financially into your employee’s growth will help with retention issues. Employees know when they’re being supported, and when they’re not.

    Here are some suggestions you can take to increase your employee retention:

    Retention Suggestion No. 1: Open lines of communication. Goals change as we grow. Talk with your employees about their career goals. If possible, create a development plan to help them grow into management, if that is a goal, or other ways in which you can help foster their goals.

    Retention Suggestion No. 2: Enhance communication between all levels within your company. By removing the level barriers, you may find that sharing ideas will help your employees and help your company to grow.

    RELATED: Why employee motivation matters more in a small business.

    Retention Suggestion No. 3: Create an open-door policy. Let your employees know that they can come to you when they have an issue. Creating trust will help with productivity and performance.

    Retention Suggestion No. 4: Create a mentorship program. A lower-level employee can grow into a great manager. Mentoring can help your company’s culture while also providing a way for management and senior employees to get to know junior employees.

    Retention Suggestion No. 5: Invest in employee training. If you have a training program in place for new hires, it helps to avoid any disconnect between current employees and new hires. This can be done virtually or in-person as things begin to open up. And don’t forget on-going training for all employees to increase their skill set, as well as training for diversity & inclusion initiatives, HR and workplace protocols and team-building skills.

    Retention Suggestion No. 6: Invest in professional memberships for your employees. This will provide employees with a means to develop relationships and new skills and come back with new ideas and innovations.

    Retention Suggestion No. 7: Do performance reviews. Even if you have only a couple of employees, performance reviews are a way to let employees know how they’re doing, and what they can be doing differently in order to reach their goals. Be candid, but also constructive. Do annual reviews, but also think about doing quarterly reviews.

    RELATED: Read more by Tim Dimoff.

    Retention Suggestion No. 8: Recognize your employees. Find ways to recognize the accomplishments your employees make throughout the year to encourage them to keep up the good work.

    Retention Suggestion No. 9: Expand their horizons within the company. Offer employees opportunities to delve into other departments—including shadowing a co-worker for the day. This gives them an idea of what others are working on and helps them see how everyone works together to achieve overall company goals.

    By investing in these simple ideas, you are also investing in your company’s growth.

     

    Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at mailto:info@sacsconsulting.com.

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  • Next up: Electronic Communications: Employer VS. Employee Privacy Rights
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  • Electronic Communications: Employer VS. Employee Privacy Rights

    To what extent can employers monitor their employees when it comes to electronic communication? It can be confusing but it's important you know your rights.

     

    As a small business owner, it is important that you are knowledgeable about employee rights, even if you only have a few employees. Workplace privacy rights extend to all employees no matter the size of the business. 

    In simple terms, employee privacy rights are basically the rules that limit how extensively an employer can search an employee’s possessions or person; how much they can monitor employees’ actions, speech, or correspondence; and how much an employer can know about their personal lives. By its very nature, social media has increased privacy concerns and potential issues as people post, tweet or otherwise put personal information out into the electronic universe. So as a small business owner it can be confusing regarding what you can and cannot do regarding employee privacy rights. I will provide some general information and guidance, but when in doubt, always check with your attorney. 

    Electronic communication and social media are huge areas of concern when it comes to employee vs. employer rights. As a general rule, employers have the right to search through anything that appears on company computers, social media and the internet. So basically, as an employer you can review e-mails sent and received through your own server, but you cannot access an employee's personal e-mail account through a password that's stored on a work-issued device. It is important to have a policy that explains to employees how you monitor email and computers and that there is no expectation of privacy when using your computers or property.

    RELATED: Do you have these items in your employee handbook?

    The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) provides the following guidance:
    Company policies should not bar activity protected by federal labor law, like the discussion of working conditions or wages amongst workers.
    A worker’s social media comments are generally unprotected if they are minor complaints not related to a group activity with employees.

    Employers also have the right to monitor telephone calls placed to and from their locations, but with limits. The Electronics Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) prohibits employers from monitoring employees' personal phone calls even if the calls were made or received on an employer's property. The Act also requires the employer to disclose the fact that calls are being monitored and makes it a civil liability for employers to read, disclose, delete, or prevent access to an employee's voicemail.

    Employers have the right to monitor their employees by camera, including in a parking structure for both security and employee safety. However, employers are required to notify employees, customers, and all others in the range of the cameras that their property is under video surveillance. Video recordings cannot include audio due to federal wiretap laws. And cameras can only be used in areas where there is a legitimate threat of theft or violence and never in break rooms, bathrooms or locker rooms.

    RELATED: Read more by Tim Dimoff.

    As always, there are some exceptions to all of these rules, especially when electronic communications are involved. Make sure you think about who is setting up your business' social media accounts and make sure that they and you have a clear understanding upfront about who is granted access to those accounts and what rights your employees will have with regard to those accounts.

    President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security ExpertTimothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com.

     
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  • Next up: BBB business tips: Handling customer reviews
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  • BBB business tips: Handling customer reviews

    Whether good or bad, honest reviews should be welcomed as an opportunity to build trust. Check out these tips on handling reviews at your small business.

     

    Open and honest communication is a necessary part of an ethical marketplace. Recently, a settlement from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sparked interest in how businesses handle customer reviews. A California-based online fashion retailer Fashion Nova, LLC was charged with blocking negative reviews of its products and will be required to pay $4.2 million to settle FTC allegations.

    Some businesses, in hopes of preventing negative reviews, include illegal non-disparagement clauses in their contracts or terms and conditions, prohibiting customers from public criticism. Businesses may even demand financial compensation or impose fines if a customer fails to comply or engages in public criticism. 

    In 2016, the Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA) was passed in response to a rising number of businesses taking action against honest customer criticism. Non-disparagement clauses violate the CRFA, which “protects people’s ability to share their honest opinions about a business’s products, services, or conduct, in any forum, including social media.” In addition, businesses cannot impose fines or otherwise punish customers who engage in public criticism. 

    Whether good or bad, honest reviews should be welcomed as an opportunity to build trust. BBB offers these tips for handling reviews for your business:

    Respond and respond promptly. Consistently monitor reviews on various websites, so you can quickly respond to customer comments. Whether the review is good or bad, it is important to respond. According to a BrightLocal survey, 97% of consumers read company responses to reviews. Prospective customers consider the newest reviews to be the most relevant and accurate. 

    Be sure to claim your business profiles. Claim your profiles on as many review platforms as possible. This will allow you to respond to comments and reviews.

    Be respectful when responding to negative comments. Avoid making denials or excuses, even if you have a different perspective on the events. Acknowledge their concerns, apologize for the mistake and illustrate that you value customer feedback as an opportunity for you to improve. 

    Don’t hinder bad reviews. Negative reviews happen, and no matter how damaging negative reviews can be, don't be tempted to include a non-disparagement clause in your contracts. Non-disparagement clauses can erode consumer trust and could land you in hot water with the FTC.  

    Take it offline. Responding online is important, but it can feel impersonal for a customer. Tell the customer how to contact you, to give you a chance to reach a resolution that makes both you and the customer satisfied.

    Encourage customers to leave reviews on BBB.org. According to a BrightLocal Survey, Better Business Bureau is, by far, the most trusted review site, compared to Facebook and Google. BBB reviews are vetted by BBB team members and sent to the business before they are published online. 

    For additional tips and resources, visit BBB.org to help keep your small business thriving. Contact your Better Business Bureau by calling 216.241.7678 or emailing info@cleveland.bbb.org. Interested in becoming BBB Accredited? Find out how you can apply for BBB Accreditation.
     
     

     
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