Scam Alert: Phony Government Cons Prey on Small Businesses

Businesses beware! Con artists impersonate government agencies – everything from the health department to the IRS – and target companies with official-sounding cons. Be sure employees know how to spot these scams.

How the Scam Works:

You get an email or phone call that claims to be from a government agency. It’s an emergency! Your business is in trouble. Maybe you owe taxes, missed a court date, or face an investigation. But one thing is the same: you need to act immediately.

Scammers’ exact techniques depend on the medium. In email, con artists typically try to trick you into downloading malware. Usually, they embed a link and urge you to click for further information. On the phone, scammers may press you directly for personal or business information. No matter the form, the end game is the same. Scammers want passwords, credit card numbers, and other sensitive information.

Tips to avoid a business phishing scam:

  • Train employees. Make sure the people processing invoices or answering phone calls are aware of common scams and can spot the techniques con artists use.
  • Hang up. Don’t confirm information from unknown callers. This just gives the scammers something to use against you.
  • Be suspicious of the method of contact. The government typically communicates by mail unless you opted in to another form of communication. Agencies don’t usually call, text, or email first.
  • Confirm by calling another number. If you want to confirm that the call was a fraud, reach out to the real organization through a phone number you find on their website or another reliable source.
  • Don’t believe what you see. Scammers are great at mimicking phone numbers, official seals, fonts, and other details. Just because it looks legitimate, does not mean it is.
  • Create a process for inspecting invoices. Always check that goods or services were both ordered and delivered before paying an invoice. Designate a small group of employees with authority to approve purchases and pay bills.

For More Information:

To learn more about scams, go to BBB Scam Tips ( To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (


Pearl is the Communications Specialist for Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern Coastal California (BBB Oakland). She works to advance BBB’s vision of an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers trust each other by being proactive in the community and developing relationships with business and consumer groups. Pearl represents BBB at events throughout the Bay Area to educate a wide variety of people. Pearl also manages BBB Oakland’s social media channels.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Business Tips, Consumer/Business Services, Scams

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: