Running a business doesn’t come without its expenses, and to keep things going, you need a steady stream of office supplies. Even if you’re not the one ordering for the office, as a business owner, you’ll often look at invoices as they come in to get an idea of your expenses. A recent scam targeting small businesses may have you doing a double-take.
Scammers are surfing the Internet, searching for business names, addresses, and contact information for the person they believe to be in charge of ordering office supplies. They’ll then send boxes of supplies to a business with an invoice attached – usually for an amount much higher than what the items are worth.
A few days after the package arrives, they call and demand payment for the items. Since offices are often busy and the person on the phone is adamant that the supplies be paid for immediately, many businesses end up paying for something they never asked for in the first place.
Before you pay the invoice anyway, remember that scammers are targeting small businesses for a reason. They know smaller operations don’t have a purchasing department, making it easy to pressure staff members into paying for something they didn’t order. Put one person in your office in charge of ordering supplies and verifying invoices to keep this from happening to you. This way they have a record of any transactions and can determine what’s real and what’s not.
If you happen to receive a shipment without a record of purchase, by law you are permitted to keep it without paying for it – no matter what the telemarketer says. It’s illegal for a seller to send you bills or letters for merchandise you didn’t order, and they cannot ask you to send back the merchandise – even if they offer to pay the shipping cost. The company misrepresented themselves as your normal supplier when ordering these items, meaning that any contract requiring payment is then deemed non-binding for that order.
Train your staff to be on the lookout for shady telemarketers who try to take your business’s money, and report any suspicious supplies to the FTC and BBB’s Scam Tracker.
Sandra Guile is the Community Outreach Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials.
Tune in Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. with Scott Sloan on 700WLW for The Scam of the Week and every third Thursday with Brian Thomas on 55KRC. In the Greater Portsmouth Area, tune in Tuesdays at 8:05 a.m. on WIOI AM for BBB Chat with Chip Maillet and every third Monday on WNXT AM for Community Corner with James Bussa.