It's no secret that COVID-19 (coronavirus) is making things tough on small businesses. Closures, cancellations and stay-at-home orders have heavily impacted small businesses that directly interact with consumers. The last thing a business affected by COVID-19 needs right now is to be victimized by scammers. One BBB Accredited Business, First Serve Cleaning and Restoration, in Indianapolis, IN, reached out to BBB about recent scam attempts targeting the business.
"Businesses are not immune to the deceitful attempts of liars, scammers and cheats," said Tim Maniscalo, BBB Central Indiana President and CEO. "Scammers prey on anyone, especially unsuspecting targets, like a business. It's imperative to empower yourself to know the signs of a scam so you can protect your identity and money."
Todd Francis, owner of First Serve Cleaning and Restoration, told BBB that since the COVID-19 crisis began, his businesses has been targeted by scammers on several occasions. Todd has received several quote requests and orders for his company's power washing services. Each request for service involved a consumer who told Todd that he would not be present at the time of service. Something about the communication didn't sit right with Todd, so he decided to do some investigating. He found that each of these requests involved vacant properties listed as "For Sale." In addition, some of the requests just didn't make sense. Several of the homes were made of brick, a material not often cleaned through pressure washing. When Todd investigated an order he received to pressure wash a driveway, he found it was made of asphalt. Asphalt is typically damaged by power washing treatments. Each of the prospective customers refused to speak over the phone. When Todd confronted one of them and accused them of being a scammer, the "customer" became aggressive and told Todd that he "hopes you catch the coronavirus."
It's likely these scammers were attempting to perpetrate an overpayment scam on Todd and First Serve Cleaning and Restoration. If Todd had completed the service and requested payment, the scammers would have likely purposefully overpaid Todd through a check or credit card payment. Afterwards, they would request a refund equivalent to the amount overpaid, likely through a wire transfer. Eventually it would surface that the credit card used was stolen or the check would bounce, likely leaving the businesses liable for the funds lost.
"Be on the alert for these scams," said Todd. "I just wish they would stop."
TIPS TO AVOID OVERPAYMENT SCAMS:
Know who you're dealing with – independently confirm your buyer's name, street address and telephone number.
Never agree to wire back funds to a buyer -- a legitimate buyer will not pressure you to do so, and you have limited recourse if there is a problem with a wire transfer.
If you're selling something over the Internet, say "no" to a check for more than your selling price, no matter how tempting the plea or convincing the story.
If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn on a local bank or a bank with a local branch. You can visit that bank branch to determine if the check is legitimate.
There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back. Never agree to send money back to someone who claims to have overpaid you.
ABOUT BBB SERVING CENTRAL INDIANA: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2018, people turned to BBB more than 173 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.4 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB serving Central Indiana, which was founded in 1916 and serves 46 counties.