By Paul B. Johnson The High Point Enterprise, N.C.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Nearly two thirds of small businesses surveyed said their enterprises had been targeted by a scammer in the past three years, said Beverly Baskin, president of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
It's enough of a challenge for small business entrepreneurs to turn a profit and make a go of it in a competitive business market -- now con artists are trying to make it even more difficult.
Small business owners have become the latest target of scams across the nation and locally, according to a report released this week by the Better Business Bureau.
The BBB is partnering with state and federal agencies in an initiative called Operation Main Street: Stopping Small Business Scams. The effort will include an educational outreach to alert small businesses to the threat and protect them from con artists.
In the past year, the Better Business Bureau of Central North Carolina received reports of 21 Piedmont Triad small businesses who had scams aimed at them.
"None reported losing any money, but if scammers had been successful, they'd have gotten $13,644," said Lechelle Yates, director of communications and investigations with the local BBB that covers the greater High Point area.
A small business owner out of Winston-Salem has faced several attempted swindles that she didn't fall for, including one that falsely threatened to cut off electricity to her shop.
Bethany Miller, owner of Top Leaf Cigar Lounge, said she received a phone call from someone purporting to work for Duke Energy Corp.
The con artist told Miller that a utility worker was heading to her business to shut off the power for failure to pay her bill.
The caller gave Miller a phone number to dial immediately to provide a credit card or debit card number so the bill could be paid remotely and prevent the power cutoff.
However, Miller realized that she had paid her bill in full and didn't fall for the high-pressure tactic.
Yates told The High Point Enterprise that reputable companies and vendors won't threaten a customer over the phone with immediate loss of goods or services.
"That's a red flag, whether it's a utility or a business providing you toner cartridges," Yates said. Among the most common scams targeted to small business are imposters for banks or credit card companies, fake invoices and vendor bills, fake checks for payments and requests for technical support.
"There is considerable overlap between scams targeting individual consumers and those targeting small businesses, with or without employees. This may explain why research and outreach efforts targeted at both audiences has generally been one and the same," according to the BBB. "However, our research suggests that the scam activity directed at small businesses is growing, that these scams pose a significant risk, and that they generally result in a higher monetary loss per incident than those targeting individuals."
Nearly two thirds of small businesses surveyed said their enterprises had been targeted by a scammer in the past three years, said Beverly Baskin, president of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.