Alright, so I am not trying to scare you but...
As small businesses, we don't really take the time to worry about FRAUD. We should!!!
As a business we think we are safe from scammers, and well so did I. But here recently, I had to turn down a "client," who at first seemed legit, but with investigation and an almost costly mistake, things started not adding up. I cannot say for sure that this was a scam, but it is not worth the risk.
So here is what happened...
I was contacted to cover an event... Okay!
We discussed packages and pricing... Again, not suspicious...
No problem with the pricing... Cool deal, I love it when people understand I am worth what I charge and more.
I make the invoice because the client wanted to pay immediately... Awesome, but you are tipping me how much?! $200 tip
Wow this is to good to be true... That is a huge tip!
Okay... But wait...
So here is where I finally jumped ship. The client wanted to combine payment for multiple vendors into one transaction, and me pay out cash to the vendors, but that isn't even the suspicious part. They wanted me to deposit this money into a bank account via CASH.
Had I done this, I would be responsible for refund back to the card holder, including what the scammer got. Believe me that is money lost, and lots of it.
What to watch for
1. No phone calls
The scammer has a reason to not talk on the phone. Sometimes these reasons even sound very legit, and may even make you feel bad to require a phone call. For example, the scammer may have told you that they have a medical condition that prevents them from being on the phone. Now I know that not every situation requires a phone call, but when they notify you that a phone call will not be possible before you even ask, head on over to the cautious side.
2. Grammatical errors
Not everyone is perfect at grammar, but when you have someone messaging you that obviously doesn't speak English as a first language, flags should be going up. They might say "sitting couch" instead of couch, or "digitally camera" instead of digital camera. If it sounds strange then it probably is not a good sign.
3. Paying immediately
This definitely doesn't sound suspicious at first, so let me elaborate. The scammer will resolve pricing quickly, and start insisting on paying immediately. No one is that excited to pay out large sums of money, and they definitely don't get pushy for you to take their money.
4. Large tips before receiving service
So you must be thinking, who offers to give large tips before they have received service! Well it happened to me, and I must admit I was excited. Then I started thinking... This is way to good to be true.
5. Card holder name different then name provided
Be weary if they try to pay with a card belonging to someone else. In the event that this happens and you don't catch it, just make sure any refunds are issued back to the original card.
6. Refuse to provide proof of ID
Say at some point you finally get suspicious, and it is time to confirm the identity of the person that you are speaking, texting, messaging, or even emailing with. So you ask them to provide a photo copy of their ID, as proof of who they are before you except their payment ,and possibly lose yourself a lot of money. Maybe they just avoid the question and change the subject. Or maybe, they get defensive and insist on moving forward without confirmation. Please don't! Stop where you are and don't move forward until their identity is confirmed. In-person meetings are a great way to avoid this, but sometimes we can't meet the people we will be traveling to shoot for or can't meet all those sessions piling up. Just stay on the cautious side.
7. It sounds to good to be true!!!
Now here is a lesson that has been around way longer than I have. Let's just say that when something sounds to good to be true, it almost always is.
8. The client is asking to pay you with a card and have you relay funds to another vendor via cash
They might ask you to accept payment for another vendor who doesn't except credit cards, and then relay the payment via cash to that vendor. They might even ask you to drop it off by the "vendors" bank without having met the vendor. Just remember if this isn't legit then you lose the cash to the scammer and still have to provide a full refund to the cardholder.
Please be aware that they will appeal to your human side. They will pitch it like it is a favor. Scammers are also known for telling their victims that they are in the hospital, or that they are sick. They will make you feel guilty for doing what is the right thing, and the smart thing to do.
Better safe than sorry. These scammers target even the smallest of businesses.