Scams targeting businesses

Scammers will often try to use frontline office staff to sanction payments over the phone and by invoice for non-existent goods and services. Junior staff should run any request for payment past an experienced member of staff for a second opinion.

Fraudulent invoices for goods and services are widespread. Often they will be modelled on ones which the company regularly pays. However, on closer inspection the bank and payee details have been altered.

Publishing and advertising

There are a few types of publishing frauds. The simplest version is where a rogue company issues a bogus invoice. In 2011 a conman based in Islington was successfully prosecuted by Islington Council for sending out invoices that at first glance appeared to come from Yellow Pages.

More recent scams concern offers to advertise in charitable publications. Charitable publication scams usually start with a telesales call from a business selling advertising space in a publication for a seemingly good cause. The caller will give the impression that the publisher is partnered with local charities, emergency services, crime prevention or community health initiatives.

Sometimes the caller will say that a business has placed an order previously, or even that someone else in the business has agreed to take out the advertising space.

The fraudsters may also send the business invoices whether or not the victim has agreed to take out the advertising space. They may follow up the invoices with threats of legal action.

Data protection registration notices

Letters originating mainly from the north of England have been circulating, asking for £95 plus VAT to register your business details. The letters look official and warn of enforcement action for non-compliance.

The Information Commissioner’s office states that the current notification fee is £35 and no VAT is payable. For more information and to see a warning list of scam letters, visit the Information Commissioner’s website www.ico.org.uk.

Business rates

Business rate consultants may claim that your non-domestic rates can definitely be reduced. You may then pay a fee but find the rate reduction never materialises. Whilst professional advisers can be helpful you should check thoroughly who you are hiring. Get advice from your local Valuation Office before you agree to anything www.voa.gov.uk.

Computer virus

You may receive an unsolicited phone call or email from someone purporting to be from a business linked to Microsoft to say they are aware that there is a virus in your computer system. The firm will offer a “debugging” service for a fee. These scammers frequently use mail forwarding addresses in the UK but are really based outside Europe. This means it is difficult to pursue them should things go wrong. Your computer supplier may be able to help and advise on anti-virus software.

Advanced fee and loan scams

People looking for finance will often use websites to find them a loan. Some of these websites unscrupulously pass on names and phone numbers to rogues who will telephone you offering a loan for an advanced fee. Be wary if this happens to you especially if the fee has to be paid via Western Union or Ukash.

If this happens to you stop dealing with the business straight away and report what has happened to Action Fraud (www.actionfraud.police.uk) and the Citizens Advice consumer service (08454 04 05 06).

If you are aware of anyone who has a personal debt with an unlicensed trader or loan shark you can report this to the Illegal Money Lending Team on their confidential number - 0300 555 2222.

Printer, copier and franking

In terms of supplies your business may receive a call that misleads an employee into thinking that an order for office supplies has already been placed and that the call is to chase up a signature for the order form. You are then sent and invoiced for unwanted, and often overpriced, office supplies.

In terms of equipment there are some leasing scams where the supplier says they will make the monthly payments for you. This may be done for a year or so, but then the supplier stops paying and the lease company comes to you.  It is then that you find the equipment was overpriced when the lease was taken out and that you are tied into an expensive agreement for 3 or 5 years. You rarely get something for nothing so be aware and check what the item should have really cost before signing.