By Police Officer Larry Jacobs

Business fraud can come from internal threats, such as employee fraud, or from external, full-time scammers. Because small business owners often lack the time and resources to fight fraud, they are popular marks for any number of different scams.

Becoming a victim of fraud can harm a business finances and its reputation. The Better Business Bureau recommends business owners train their staff to look out for seven common scams that prey on companies.

1. Directory scams. These phony directories have plagued businesses for decades involves deceptive sales for directories. A scammer will call a business claiming he or she just wants to update a listing. The business is later billed hundreds of dollars for listing services they didn’t agree to or for ads which they thought would be in the Yellow Pages.

2. Office supply scams. Some scammers prey on business owners hoping they won’t notice a bill for office supplies, such as toner or paper, which the company never ordered.

3. Overpayment scams. Be extremely cautious if a customer overpays using a check or credit card and then asks you to wire the extra money back to them or to a third party.

4. Data breaches. No matter how vigilant your company is, a data breach can still happen. Whether it’s the result of hackers, negligence or a disgruntled employee, a data breach can have a severe impact on the level of trust customers have in your business. You can learn how to defend your company from a data breach for free with the Better Business Bureau’s Data Security Made Simpler at www.bbb.org/data-security.

5. Vanity awards. While it’s flattering to be recognized for your hard work, some awards are just money-making schemes and have no actual merit. If you are approached about receiving a business or leadership award, research the award carefully and be wary if you’re asked to pay money.

6. Stolen identity. Scammers often will pretend to be legitimate companies for the purposes of ripping off consumers. When it comes to stolen identity, the company doesn’t necessarily lose money, but their reputation is potentially tarnished as angry customers who were cheated think the real company is responsible.

7. Phishing e-mails. “Phishing” is a way of attempting to get useful information, such as computer passwords or credit card numbers, by pretending to be a trustworthy source in electronic communications. Some phishing e-mails target business owners with the goal of hacking into their computer or network. Common examples include e-mails pretending to be from the IRS claiming the company is being audited or phony e-mails from the Better Business Bureau saying a complaint has been filed against a company.

If you receive a suspicious e-mail, don’t click on any links or open any attachments. Contact the agency or the Better Business Bureau directly.

Officer Larry Jacobs is a crime prevention specialist in the Crime Prevention Unit of the Sandy Springs Police Department. He can be reached at Larry.Jacobs@sandyspringsga.org.