ALL small businesses should be alert to frauds and scams - fraud and scams cost business owners millions of dollars per year. For example, over one-third of online traders have been a victim of fraud, and over half of those businesses become repeat targets.

The Office of the Victorian Small Business Commissioner is a member of the Australian Consumer Fraud Taskforce, which has been established to alert small businesses to the extent of various fraud and scams. The taskforce is chaired by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and comprises 19 Government regulatory agencies and departments.

The primary focus of the Taskforce is to enhance the Australian and New Zealand Governments’ enforcement activity against frauds and scams.

Some facts about scams:
• Almost half of the small business operators surveyed had been targeted by scams.
• Nearly all who were targeted said it had occurred in the past 12 months and more than half had been hit 10 or more times in that time.
• More than a third of the scams were seeking banking details and aimed at business operators with less than 20 employees.
• Bogus invoices for advertising, directory listing or office supplies were also popular. These were usually for less than $300 but generated millions of dollars for the fraudsters.
• The scammers targeted regional business operators in the same ratio as Melbourne business operators.
• The main targets were businesses in finance and insurance.
• Once a target always a target - of the companies that had been targeted 85 per cent said they had been targeted again within three months.
• While email was the main vehicle (63 per cent), almost 10 per cent were directly by telephone.
• Unfortunately only 47 per cent of small businesses had procedures in place to try to thwart the scamsters. The most ill-prepared are the building and construction industries.
• The most common “defence” was anti-viral software (18%) and having only one person authorised to pay invoices (13%).

For more information about scams and how you can protect yourself, download the factsheet below or refer to the ACCC’s SCAMWATCH website. You can also notify the VSBC of a scam on 13 VSBC (13 8722). 

VSBC_BewareScams_june11.pdf 

Consumer Affairs Victoria released a series of small business scam videos in March 2012, featuring "Stevie's Scam School". The videos outline the various types of small business scams, including unauthorised advertising scams, overpayment scams, computer repair scams, bogus government scams, domain name scams and unsolicited office supply scams. Click here to see the "Stevie's Scam School" videos and for further information on avoiding scams, click here.