Small Business Advertising Scams
The owners of small businesses, such as hair dressers, auto mechanics, and contractors, have been targeted by scam artists with fraudulent schemes to trick them into paying in advance for advertising in directories that are never published.
How the Scam Works
The con artist contacts a business unannounced and, in exchange for an up-front payment, promises to provide the business with advertising in directories, coupon books, pamphlets, mailings, or online. The con artist may attempt to create a sense of urgency by claiming the advertisement will be exclusively featured in a publication or that the business must sign-up immediately because advertising space is filling up quickly.
Businesses pay up-front for the advertising by providing the scammer with their small business’s credit card number, or checking account and routing numbers. After paying in full, the business may never hear from the scam artist again, and the promised advertising is never provided.
Tips to Avoid Small Business Advertising Scams
- Beware of solicitors making unsubstantiated promises of broad distribution of thousands of copies of an advertisement in exchange for an up-front payment.
- Before purchasing advertising products or services for a small business, ask for recommendations from other small-business owners.
- Do not disclose a credit card number, bank account information, and/or checking account and routing numbers to an unknown solicitor over the phone or in person.
- Keep a close eye on business accounts to avoid unauthorized withdrawals or charges by third-parties.
People may report small business advertising scams to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office as follows:
Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400
St. Paul, MN 55101
(651) 296-3353 (Twin Cities Calling Area)
(800) 657-3787 (Outside the Twin Cities)
TTY: (651) 297-7206 or TTY: (800) 366-4812
Fake Invoices Targeted at Businesses and Other Organizations
Scam artists often aim fake invoices at companies, churches and synagogues, non-profits, and other organizations, hoping to get them to pay for products or services, such as printer toner, paper, directory listings, magazine subscriptions, books, and chemical products that the company did not order, that have little or no value, or that are never delivered.
Business Filing Scams
The common denominator of these scams is that the solicitations always instruct the business to submit a fee for a service that is unnecessary, or that the business could do on its own for a fraction of the cost.
How to Contest Online Business Reviews
Most businesses in today’s marketplace rely on an online presence to expand their customer base. Many customers use online reviews to research companies they may be thinking of doing business with. If you are concerned about online reviews of your business or want to contest an online review you believe is inaccurate or meant for another business, there are several steps you can take.