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SMEs fall victim to false billing scams

More than 90,000 Australians were ripped off for nearly $90 million in fraud scams in 2013.

Small businesses also continued to be targeted by scammers with reports of false billing schemes increasing by 45 per cent.

According to a new report, the competition watchdog received a ten per cent increase in the number of “scam related contacts” when compared to 2012 figures. However, estimated scam losses declined by almost 5 per cent.

Dating and romance based scams were the largest contributor to financial losses, with $25 million lost in this manner.  However, the most commonly reported scam was the advanced fee/upfront payment scam in which goods are promised in return for cash provided in advance.

The Targeting Scams Report 2013, found that false billing scams were the most common in the SME sector. They accounted for 4 per cent (3,672) of all scam reports received by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission with losses increasing by 28 per cent to $724,772.

However, the businesses reporting such scams did not lose as much money suggesting small business owners and staff are identifying fraudsters and minimising exposure. There were a total of 445 consumers reporting losses to false billing scams in 2013.

False billing scams attempt to trick business into paying for listings in magazines, journals or directories, domain name registrations and office supplies.

One tactic is to send a business a subscription form disguised as an outstanding invoice to get the business owner to sign up for an ongoing service. In 2013 the ACCC took legal action against the operators of Adepto Publications, a scam targeting small businesses with false claims about advertising services.

The watchdog suggests small business owners ensure they are dealing with a real business if they receive a tax invoice out of the blue and introduce a “clearly defined process” for both verifying and paying accounts.

The ACCC received 11 per cent increase in the number of reported job and employment scams when compared to 2012 figures. Total losses amounted to $3.2 million with the number of people losing money to such scams rising from 11 per cent to 14 per cent.

Job and employment scammers usually seek payments for training courses, uniforms and security clearances from people to whom they have falsely offered jobs.

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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly is a writer for Dynamic Business. He has previously worked in the Canberra Press Gallery and has a keen interest in business, the economy and federal policy. He also follows international relations and likes to read history.

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