Office of Fair Trading warns Beaudesert businesses of magazine advertising scammer

SCENIC Rim businesses and tradespeople are warned to be wary of scam phone calls claiming money is owed for unwanted magazine advertising.

A notice from the Office of Fair Trading stated scammers had been targeting businesses around Beaudesert, claiming to be from charitable-sounding magazines.

The scammers claimed promises had been made to pay for advertising in the publications.

An Office of Fair Trading spokesperson said false billing scams involved requests being sent to businesses which asked them to pay invoices for directory listings, advertising, domain name renewals or office supplies that they did not order.

"In some cases the scam simply involves sending the invoice to huge numbers of businesses, with the scammers hoping that just a small percentage of recipients will fall for it," the spokesperson said.

"In other cases...a business will receive a telephone call from someone who claims the business has already placed an advertisement or order with them and that they are calling to confirm details.

"In these cases the scammer's real purpose for the call is often to identify the names of staff. The scammer later uses the name of the employee on the false bill they issue, giving the invoice an air of legitimacy.

"In other cases the scammer might provide a copy of an advertisement they've created for the business to convince the business that they did use the scammer's services.

"However, the product the scammer has provided is in effect only a copy of a genuine entry or advertisement the business placed in another legitimate publication."

A scam guide by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission stated false billing scams were the most common ploy scammers used against small businesses.

In 2009, a publishing group was fined $8000 in Beaudesert Magistrates Court for running a false billing scam, during which a business owner was contacted regarding an advertisement in a fake magazine about drug awareness.

The spokesperson said businesses could take steps to reduce the risk of being caught out by these scams.

These included limiting the number of people in the business who were authorised to place orders or pay invoices and making sure the bill came from a company that was normally dealt with. Businesses should also keep written records of authorisations for advertising or directory entries.

Other top tips were to check that goods or services were both ordered and delivered before paying an invoice and always read the fine print.

"If you notice a supplier's usual bank account details have changed, call them to confirm," the spokesperson said.

Another common scam for businesses was the domain name scam, which saw scammers deceiving people into signing up for an unsolicited internet domain registration similar to their own.

For information or to report a scam, businesses should contact the Office of Fair Trading or visit the Scamwatch website.