CONSUMER ALERT: BUSINESSES ARE ALSO SCAM TARGETS

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September 25, 2013

LITTLE ROCK – Scams come in many forms and they affect many targets. Increasingly, those targets are Arkansas small businesses. From fraud attempts in which a scammer tries to sell inferior office supplies to those in which businesses are sent invoices for services never rendered, small business owners must be vigilant to avoid falling victim to con artists.

Some specific targets of scammers in Arkansas are contractors that do business with the federal government. Contractors in the state have reported receiving faxes asking for financial details about their businesses, supposedly sent from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The DOT says those types of faxes – which have been sent out by fraudsters for years – are not legitimate and that they are attempts at identity theft.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this Consumer Alert to remind small business owners about scams that could affect them.

“Criminals aren’t picky when it comes to their targets,” McDaniel said. “Even businesses can be affected by scams and fraud. That’s why employers should train and educate their employees on the kinds of scams that affect small businesses and how to avoid those scams.”

In the scam targeting Arkansas contractors, a fax purported to be from the DOT’s procurement office asks business owners to provide bank account information on an “Authorization to Release Financial Information” form. According to DOT, the document appears to be on that entity’s letterhead and is signed by a supposed senior procurement official.

DOT warns that the fax is fraudulent, and that it would only request specific information about specific contracts awarded. The department does not request financial information from prospective contractors who are considering submittal of a bid.

According to the DOT, versions of a similar letter have circulated to contractors purporting to be from Equifax and other companies. Those are also fraudulent.

Earlier this year, small businesses in Arkansas were recipients of similar scam solicitations. These appeared to be invoices for what were referred to as telephone maintenance contracts. Those costly “invoices” were for services the business never authorized or agreed to.

In yet another scheme that often affects businesses, con artists call with offers of tremendous discounts on office supplies, but only if businesses pre-pay for the product. Those businesses that agree to pay for the new or discounted merchandise find that it is of inferior quality, or that it never arrives at all.

On occasion, business owners may receive expensive paper or toner at a quantity and cost that has never been agreed to. Scammers may have previously attempted to call and ask for the serial number of a copy machine or the name of the office manager in order to make the invoice seem legitimate.

McDaniel advised business owners to report scams to the Attorney General’s Office and to local law enforcement agencies. He also encouraged business owners to make sure all employees know the office’s policies for purchasing supplies, receiving goods and invoicing; and to never accept goods or shipments that are not specifically ordered.

For more information about scams that affect small businesses, or other consumer-related issues, visit GotYourBackArkansas.org or call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 482-8982.

 

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