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While owning and operating a small business can be challenging, the number and variety of options available to businesses to help them succeed are extensive. But, even the savviest of entrepreneurs need to be cautious and conduct their due diligence before engaging the services of a vendor. It is important to remember that scammers not only target individuals, but businesses as well.

For example, many businesses rely heavily on online listings for growth, marketing and publicity. Scammers may attempt to exploit a business’ need for advertising and defraud them of thousands of dollars. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently took action against a telemarketing company that targeted small businesses by sending robocalls informing them that their Google business listing was removed or closed. The only way to save the listing, the caller said, was to pay an exorbitant fee. Unfortunately for the recipient of this call, and for many other businesses that were scammed, the business listing was never in jeopardy—as they can manage their Google business listing free of charge.

If you or another employee take a call like this, you should hang up immediately and report the scam to the FTC. If you engage, the scammer may try to use intimidation or fear and create a sense of urgency to defraud you. Stay composed and ask for verification if you are ever unsure about something.

Another frequently employed deception that impacts small businesses is the “technology support” solicitation. Scammers will call a business (or individual) and request access to their computer so that they can “fix” a bug, of which the business was completely unaware!  Never give anyone access to your system without confirming that there is a problem with your information technology team/provider.  If you don’t have an IT team,  always check the credentials and the company of anyone who is trying to access your computer.

Employees should also beware of W-2 scams, where scammers pose as executives to steal personal information from the tax documents. Providing W-2 information to someone could jeopardize the identities of many different employees. Other scams affecting business include energy scams, when scammers pretend to be from an energy provider and threaten to turn off your utilities, and LinkedIn scams, where fraudulent recruiters connect with you to try and steal personal information.

Falling victim to a scam can leave a business hurting financially. It is important to spread the word about popular scams and make sure that all employees know the signs and how to spot them. If you do come across a scam, be sure to report it to our Office, and both federal and local authorities. For more information about scams and how to prevent them, visit our website.

The FTC also has information about scams targeting small businesses on their website: Scams and Your Small Business: A Guide for Business.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s vehicular and customized wheelchair Lemon Laws and Arbitration Programs, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

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