“I think I just got scammed!” That is how the conversation started.
I was working with a person who runs a fairly large online business. He started to notice that something wasn’t adding up about a month ago, but the numbers were small so he ignored assumed he just made an accounting rounding error. He ignored it.
Last week things really didn’t add up. Literally. That’s when he called me. Unfortunately, after a bit of digging, I discovered that he was scammed and he began a legal process to try get his products back.
Online scams are wide and varied. These are some of the typical scams used by customers to get free goods from businesses:
- The scammer may be using a bank card they have stolen from somebody else.
- The scammer may have hacked into your customer accounts, stealing your sensitive information.
- The scammer may be trying to commit one of the PayPal scams I mentioned in a previous article on the site.
- The scammer may order something and later claim it never arrived.
What business owners should look out for
These are just a few examples. As a business owner, how can you prevent your “customer” from scamming you? Here are few signs you should pay special attention to:
- Pattern: You may have a returning customer who suddenly alters his/her spending behavior. He/ she may be buying items he has never bought before, or buying something that is over that usual price range. This parent is strange and it could be that somebody else has gotten hold of your customer’s info or your customer was buying in small quantities to test the system and now he/she is ready for the real scam.
- Change of Address: The customer has a shipping address that differs from their usual address, or in the case of a new customer, the address may be different to that attached to their bank details. There may be a perfectly legitimate reason for this like delivering to the office, but it needs to be checked.
- Over Paying: You may receive a Check or a bank transfer that is above the amount of the product sold. The fraudster will then apologize for his ‘mistake’ and ask if you would kindly return the balance before funds have been cleared. Inevitably, the fund will bounce, and you will have incurred extra losses for your business.
- No Product Sent: The customer may buy something from you, decide it is not to their liking, and then ask for a refund. After paying up, you don’t receive the product back. They blame it on the mail service.
After getting to know the signs of a scam, you need to take protective measures. These can include:
- Firewalling your computer and using the latest antivirus software to ensure you aren’t vulnerable to any kind of cyber attack such as malicious code that can provide access to your systems.
- Create a system that looks for anomalies. If something doesn’t fit, the system should flag it immediately for manual investigation.
- Use real world identity verification to help you catch anybody out who is using false identification.
- Check the person’s credit history as an indicator of their spending habits.
- Do a Google Search on the person and see what if found. If the top three searches are court cases, you should be prepared for trouble.
Finally remember the old rule: “if it’s too good to be true….” Follow your gut instinct – if you suspect something is wrong, you don’t need to follow through with the transaction. You may lose a sale, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.