Advertising scam targets small businesses

SMALL businesses have been urged to be alert for scammers seeking money for false advertising campaigns.

The warning from Consumer Affairs Victoria comes after some traders were tricked into thinking their advertisements would be supporting community groups.

In one report, a scammer phoned a small business about sponsorship for a local bowls club, asking the business to pay for advertising with a credit card.

After transferring the money, the business contacted the bowls club — only to be told that the club had no affiliation with the company.

Consumer Affairs Victoria director Claire Noone urged businesses to be vigilant, saying scammers were becoming “increasingly sophisticated”.

“Scams attacking small businesses can come in various forms, from bills for advertising or directory listings that your business never ordered, to ‘tax-free’ investment scam offers,” Dr Noone said.

Previous reports to Consumer Affairs show scammers will contact a business or send an invoice for an advertisement or listing in a publication.

It will be for an advertisement the trader did not order, for a publication that does not exist or has limited distribution or will use the details from a previously authorised advertisement for a different publication.

In other scams, callers have presented a free trial listing in a publication which has hidden fees involved or a contract for services which is disguised as an invoice.

Dr Noone said businesses who had already authorised such an advertisement could contact the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal if the scammer was threatening them with legal action or debt collection notices for not paying.

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