Scammers have attempted to swindle a local Bendigo trader out of hundreds of dollars through a false billing scam.
A Local business owner recently contacted Consumer Affairs Victoria after receiving an invoice for $445.50 for services for his business that he had never authorised or requested. The invoice stated ‘This is not a bill. You are not required to pay any money’. Despite this, the business received two follow up phone calls demanding immediate payment.
After attempting to contact the trader a number of times with no success, the man reported the matter to Consumer Affairs Victoria.
Consumer Affairs Regional Manager Caroline Roy said this sounds like what is commonly known as a blower scam.
'These scams work by targeting small businesses that are often time poor and don’t always have the resources to double check every bill that comes in,' Ms Roy said.
'What the scammers do is send you a bill for some sort of service, normally for some sort of advertising, that was never actually authorised and hope that will be enough to convince you to pay it without thinking twice.
'The scammers rely on businesses that are so busy they will pay an invoice without double checking. The scammer will claim that because the document they send says ‘this is not a bill’ that it is not a scam but a busy small business owner may not always have time to read the fine print.'
In 2011, Consumer Affairs Victoria received 5236 reports of scams including 217 reports of blower scams.
Ms Roy said that businesses should always be vigilant, as scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in targeting small business as well as individuals.
Scams attacking small business can come in various forms.
- Bills for advertising or directory listings that your business never ordered
- Overpayment scams – where you’re intentionally overpaid for something and then asked to pay back the excess money into an untraceable account
- ‘Tax free’ investment scam offers
- False claims of government requirements to pay money.
'Scams can be very difficult to identify from the real thing so consumers need to educate themselves about the tactics scammers may use to deceive them,' Ms Roy said.
To learn more about scams that target small businesses and how to protect yourself, watch Stevie’s Scam School.