It’s a new financial year and scammers have come out of the dark to prey on small business operators – once again.
An official warning has been made by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) advising small business owners to be wary of yet another business directory scam.
According to the ACCC press release, there has been “a surge of reports” from small business owners who’ve been receiving a fax from what was presented as ‘Yellow Page Australia’ and ‘Open Business Directory Ltd’.
The warning states: “On first glance, the fax appears to be seeking confirmation of the contact details for their business. However on closer inspection, the fax is in fact an agreement to sign up to an online business directory service charged at $99 per month for a minimum two-year period.”
The fax uses the Sensis Yellow Pages name and their “Walking Fingers” logo to provide the false impression that it is affiliated with the well-known Australian company.
But the company has confirmed ‘Yellow Page Australia’ (notice that it is Yellow Page not Yellow Pages), ‘Online Business Directory’ and the website ‘www.yellow-page-australia.com’ are in no way connected with Sensis or Telstra.
Unfortunately, this is not the first business directory scam to strike Australia.
In April 2011, the ACCC prosecuted two overseas companies for sending thousands of faxes to local businesses. The Federal Court imposed penalties totalling $2.7 million against the perpetrators.
Although the perpetrators are different this time around, or at least so it appears, the conduct is practically identical.
“Scammers are very sophisticated and target small businesses at busy times when they’re more vulnerable to fall victim,” says ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper.
“The perpetrators behind this ‘Yellow Pages’ scam would likely be trying to take advantage of the new financial year period to trick busy businesses into signing up to an unwanted service.”
Judging from similar occurrences in the past, Dr Schaper warns that these scammers may soon start to hassle businesses for payments, including threatening them with late payment fees.
“If you refuse to pay, the scammers might try to intimidate you by threatening legal action or debt collection,” he says.
“Don’t let scammers slip under your radar during tax time. Stop and think twice before you respond to any unexpected offers, tax invoices or demands for payment.”
ACCC SCAMwatch urges small business owners to stay alert and follow these three rules:
- If you receive a ‘Yellow Pages’ fax or email, bin it. Sensis will never approach you this way.
- If you get a threatening phone call, email or fax demanding payment – ignore it and report it.
- Spread the word. Ensure employees are aware of this scam and know how to protect your business.
If you think you have come across a scammer, report it to the ACCC via SCAMwatch or by calling 1300 795 995.