Sunday, November 1, 2015

Scams Targeting Small Businesses

Forget Small Business Saturday: scammers go after them every day
Sure, everyone wants to shower small businesses with love on Small Business Saturday. But small businesses get close attention from ‘vendors’ using unfair or illegal tactics, or flat-out scamming them, every day of the week. The favorite targets? New business owners, those who don’t speak English well, and those who aren’t familiar with the law. Oh, and those who are wearing a million hats and just aren’t paying attention.
“I'm a small business owner with a very small salon and trying very hard to learn the business, but I learned that you cannot be so trusting of vendors...This has caused me so much grief,” said one busy man, who ended up with big bills after a deceptive salesman pressured him into signing for a ‘free trial’…that wasn’t either free or a trial.
So if you really love small businesses, make sure that busy, stressed owners don’t blow hard-earned money on scams and low-value services.
Here’s a roundup of rip-offs, sent to PeopleClaim.com by small business owners looking to resolve a complaint.
Merchant Services Providers
Dodgy merchant services salespeople are the bane of the average small business—and many ruefully report that they took the bait. In some cases the company is totally fraudulent; in others, a legitimate salesperson is using unethical techniques, with or without their company’s knowledge.
“You don’t have an EMV (Chip) card reader? Uh oh! As of Oct 1, 2015, you’re liable for all fraudulent charges. Sign here…. “
Truth: Yes—but don’t get panicked or pressured into making a rash decision. Many big companies haven’t installed new terminals yet. Start shopping, though.
“This is MasterCard / Visa. We’re just checking on what rates your MSP is charging. We don’t want you to pay too much!”
Truth: MasterCard and Visa don’t call, according to a company rep.
“I can get you a fantastic rate! You are going to save so much money every month, and we’ll buy out your old contract. No, it’s not in writing but we do it as a courtesy for our customers. “
Truth: If it’s not in writing, it’s unlikely to happen. If their word is good, they won’t mind putting it in writing, right?
“I’ll leave this credit card reader with you so you can try it out. Just sign this acknowledgement.”
Truth: Oops—you just signed a contract.
Want a real-life story? OK, here’s the condensed version of how one small business owner says he ended up with a huge bill and huge monthly commitments.
“He came to my business and offered me a credit card machine. He stated the company and the card machine would be better than the one I was already using; he would leave the machine with me as a trial to see how I liked it. He stated I would need to sign a paper giving him permission to leave the equipment. I signed, thinking I was getting a free trial period and nothing else…I realized the following day the services he offered were more expensive and I didn’t like the machine as well as my other one…He ignored all my calls…I received a huge bill from his company saying I had signed a contract. I was extremely shocked, and realized I had been charged a large amount of money and the contract was extremely expensive…I finally was able to speak to someone from Red Payments who simply said I am sorry, you signed a contract. I explained the conversation with myself and Paul and the only response I got was I am sorry. I sent the equipment back certified mail, to receive it sent back to me a few days later. I strongly feel this man misrepresented himself and his product and lied completely to me. The merchandise is expensive and the monthly charge and service is three times what I was paying with my original company who I had zero problems with.”
Who’s Who-type Professional and Trade Directories
“Congratulations! You are a leader, truly outstanding in your field. You’ve been nominated for inclusion in our prestigious Who’s Who of…”
Truth: You may well be accomplished, but the directory owner is much more interested in your wallet. Promises of newspaper announcements don’t materialize, directories may or may not be published, networking opportunities don’t happen. The term ‘Who’s Who’ is in the public domain, and any shyster can use it. The truly prestigious versions don’t solicit you.
A real complaint filed with PeopleClaim.com:
 “She spoke very quickly and aggressively promoted the membership options, and made me feel safe and valued and even told me that I was being recognized for science education in the state of Texas. She even stated that this was "not a scam" when I raised that question with her, and that I was being selected because of my ability to foster student engagement. I told her that I was on my conference period and that I was going to be teaching a class soon, and I was distracted due to work. I was also confused because I believed that the listing was free. She talked me into the $589 membership for a five-year term and a $199 book sale very quickly. It felt like a very high-pressure sale. I had to go teach the class very soon and this sense of urgency on her part made me feel very uncomfortable, but at the time I was under a sense of stress and confusion at the whole situation. She said that the membership had to be processed very quickly because they were about to go to press.”
Yellow Pages-type Scams
“Hi—we’re calling to update your listing.” “Here’s your invoice for the online ad you approved.” “Your employee approved your listing and advertisement. Your account is being sent to Collections.” “You’re past due on your renewal invoice.” “Your domain name (or trademark) is expiring tomorrow.”
Truth:  Fake invoice scams are as old as the hills, and morph into new versions as technology changes. Read solicitations, “renewals,” and invoices carefully. Never agree to update a business listing over the phone—a recording of the conversation may be edited so that it appears you agreed to pay. Don’t believe that you agreed to a renewal for some service you don’t remember ever signing up for. And tell your employees to refer all such calls to you.
A real complaint filed with PeopleClaim.com:
“I was sent a small card from this business that looked like something to update a listing. This was filled out and mailed back. Two months later I received a bill for 399.99. I called immediately and cancelled this service… The small innocent card that is mailed traps people, the fee schedule is in very fine print that is hidden under the innocent premise of a yellow page listing update!” R.B.
“US Yellow pages called and pressured one of our employees into answering questions …they said he authorized a subscription through them. This employee has no authority to authorize any business subscriptions. These people should have contacted a business owner and not used tactics that are immoral. They are requiring us to pay a $630.00 bill without a signature from an owner of a business. We have not been with them for years and they called when no owner was available.” J.C.
Labor Law Posters
“ALERT from Compliance Department: By law you must post revised state and Federal Labor Law Notices. Substantial fine may be levied for non-compliance.”
Truth: The notice didn’t come from the government, although it looks official. The company is selling posters—including laminated versions—that you could download and print free of charge directly from the state and Federal sites. You may well find the service convenient, but know that you’re paying for that convenience.
A real complaint filed with PeopleClaim.com:
“I feel like an idiot. I’m working for practically nothing while I build my business and I blew money because I was so freaked out about breaking the law. I thought this was an official mailing and a necessary cost.” S.T.
Charities
Small businesses are an integral part of their communities. They hand out candy at Halloween, sponsor soccer teams, and donate to silent auctions. So when an owner gets a call from a charity that’s supposedly raising money for local law enforcement officers, veterans, firefighters, or women with breast cancer, the impulse is to want—or feel pressured—to help.
Truth: Almost all of these so-called charities, even those with ‘non-profit’ status, give very little to programs. In some cases a genuine charity has hired, or been targeted by, unethical fundraisers. Never give money over the phone and never give without doing some substantial checking. Always ask how much money goes to programs.
A real complaint filed with PeopleClaim.com:
“This company used its creepy and peculiar software to have someone call me today. As I understand it, someone in another country is pushing buttons to generate what SOUNDS like a real person with an NC accent asking for money...so it's not exactly a robot. But the responses are pretty off-kilter.
Regardless, when I asked how much money goes to programs (i.e. actual NC troopers or their families after injury or death) they told me, not less that TEN percent. I believe this is unconscionable. It preys on people who genuinely care about those who help us. J.P.
A small business owner’s best defense is to take the time to thoroughly investigate every offer, every invoice, every vendor that shows up. At PeopleClaim.com we see some heartbreaking stories from people who don’t have the money to lose. It’s only money—but it’s your money.

Article from PeopleClaim.com