New types of scams
New types of scams that target small businesses include –
Carbon Tax Repeal Scam
In this type of scam, scammers will claim to be from a government department or agency, or from a business such as an energy provider to sound legitimate. The caller will claim that people are entitled to a carbon tax rebate or refund off their previous bill. However, for the money to be released, there is an upfront 'fee' to cover administration or other costs. Money that will never be able to be recovered. They may also request financial or personal details to deposit the owed money into an account. This then provides the scammers access to your money and also allows them to commit identity theft. If you are unsure of the caller or an email being real, it is suggested that you do not provide any personal details over the phone or email. After your contact, find the details for the government department, organisation or business via an independent source such as phone book or online search to call direct to request further information. Don't ever reply using any contact details provided by the person or email received.
Tax Time Scams
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) does not randomly call, e-mail or text clients requesting personal or financial information. The ATO does however from time to time send through information about new services available. If you receive a phone call, text or e-mail claiming to be from the ATO stating that you have overpaid your tax and are entitled to a refund or that you owe money due to a miscalculation in last years return, be certain that it is a scam . They will then state that you have to pay a tax or administration fee upfront to release any monies owed to you. If you receive a call, hang up straight away or if you receive an e-mail or text, delete it. You can then check if this is a scam by contacting the ATO on 13 28 69 and advise them of the contact you have received.
If you have recently flown or booked airline tickets with Qantas this scam appears to be the real thing. You will receive a phone call on your mobile, home or work phone and when you answer it goes straight to an automated message thanking you for choosing Qantas and claims that you have been chosen to receive '$999 in a travel prize', 'credit points' or even 'frequent flyer points' towards your next trip. The automated message will direct you to press '1' and you will be put directly through to a scammer claiming to be a Qantas representative. The person who will ask you a series of questions including your credit card details in order to process the prize. Once you provide your credit card details the money will be taken from your bank account rather than deposited as promised.
Yellow Pages directory scam
This scam comes in the form of a fax to businesses claiming to be from 'Yellow Page Australia' and 'Open Business Directory Ltd'. On first glance the fax appears to be seeking confirmation of business contact details. On closer inspection, the fax is in fact an agreement to sign up to an online buisness directory service with a fee of $99 per month for a minimum two-year period. If you sign and return the form, the scammer will claim that you have accepted their offer and have been locked in to pay the ongoing contract, potentially with a demand to pay 12 months in advance. Sensis warns that 'Yellow Page Australia', 'Open Business Directory Ltd' and the website 'www.yellow-page-australia.at' are in no way connected with Sensis or Telstra. If you receive a 'Yellow Pages' fax or e-mail, you can confirm its authenticity by calling Sensis directly.
For other recent types of scams, click below on more information.
A franchising scam often comes in the form of a pyramid scheme that looks like a reputable franchise. These scams appear to be professional with sophisticated websites, marketing material and information that appears plausible for a genuine business site, including a business model, mission statement, industry statistics and the promise of support services for franchisees. The tell-tale sign of a pyramid selling scheme is that they recruit people rather than selling a legitimate product or service. A legitimate franchisor will provide a prospective franchisee with a disclosure document 14 days before entering into an agreement or handing over any money (as is required by law under the Franchising Code of Conduct) which details information about the franchise, payments to be made, contact details of existing and former franchisees and the rights for a cooling off period. Often in one of these schemes you will be required to pay a significant up front fee to "join" the franchise. Once you sign up, you will be required to recruit other franchisees or franchise partners to join the scheme. You will be promised a return for signing up new franchisees, but you will never get these and still be expected to continue to sign up people. If you sign up family and friends into a pyramid scheme, not only will you lose your money, but all of you will be breaking the law.
Computer, smartphone and tablet users scam
This scam is where a scammer will call you claiming to be a technical support specialist, who informs you that your computer, smartphone or tablet has been compromised by malicious software. The 'technician' will claim to represent a reputable business such as Microsoft, Windows, Telstra or Bigpond. The 'technician' will ask you to provide them with remote access to your computer so that they can run a scan. If they claim that the virus is on your smartpone or tablet, they will ask you to connect the device to your computer so they can connect to it. Once connected the 'technician' will claim that your computer or device has been compromised and that it will need to be fixed on the spot for a fee. This fee will be for a one-off payment that will range from $100 to $300 for the installation of an ant-virus software. They will ask for payment via credit card or via direct debit from your bank account.
The ACCC reports that there has been a surge in complaints of scammers calling from Telstra advising of a risk to their internet being disconnected immediately as their computer has been hacked or infected with a malware that is threatening Telstra's infrastructure. SCAMwatch advise consumers to hang up immediately if they receive a call out of the blue from someone claiming there is a problem with their internet conncection or computer.
This type of scam is where a scammer contacts you via phone or the internet to purchase goods or services from you. The scammer then sends you payment by cheque, money order or credit card for a much higher value than the agreed price. The scammer then asks you to refund the overpayment and hopes that this refund is completed before you realise that their cheque for the payment of goods or services has bounced or that the money order or credit card are phoney. Be suspicious at all times if you are overpaid and do not refund any money until original payment has cleared.
Directory entry or unauthorised advertising scam
This scam starts with an invoice being sent to you by post, fax or e-mail for a listing or advertisement in a magazine, journal or business register/directory which you did not authorise or request. You may also receive a proposal for a subscription, disguised as an invoice or renewal notice, for an entry on a website or trade directory. Each of these scenarios may appear as though it is a free entry, but in fact there can be charges hidden in the fine print, resulting in demands for payment later. Another common scam is the scammer calling a business to confirm details of an advertisement that they claim has already been booked or asking if you would like a free trial. In these instances businesses are unaware that they have been charged for the advertisement.
Investment scheme scams
This scam involves a phone call from a telemarketing company to your small business describing a tax-free business opportunity. Be suspicious of any cold calls offering ‘tax-free wealth’, ‘strategic investment’ or ‘recession proof your business’.
This information has been supplied by the ACCC.