Cromwell, CT - The Better Business Bureau is partnering with state and federal agencies on Operation Main Street: Stopping Small Business Scams, a law enforcement initiative targeting operations seeking to defraud small businesses, and an education outreach effort to help small businesses protect themselves from fraud. BBB joined with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), eight state Attorneys General, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and two U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to launch the efforts.
The agencies announced a total of 24 actions involving defendants who allegedly perpetrated scams against small businesses, including one new FTC case, three other FTC actions from the past six months, two criminal actions announced by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and 18 actions by state AGs over the past year.
The BBB announced a new research report, “Scams and Your Small Business,” that provides substantial new insights into how fraud affects small businesses. In addition, the FTC and the BBB announces new business education materials, designed to help small business owners and their employees avoid, identify, and report scams.
“Millions of U.S. consumers either own or work at small businesses nationwide, and the FTC is happy to join with our law enforcement partners and the BBB to help stop scams and spread the word about how they can identify and avoid scams targeting their livelihood,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “A top FTC priority is to stem the tide of fraud against small businesses.”
“Scams are a significant – and growing – problem for small businesses,” said Beverly Baskin, President and CEO, Council of Better Business Bureaus. “Nearly two thirds of those we surveyed said their business had been targeted by a scammer in the past three years, and many said that their businesses suffered a loss of consumer trust as a result. BBB is pleased to partner with the FTC to help small businesses spot and avoid scams and fraud.”
“The role of the state attorney general is not to second guess lawful business decisions. But when someone scams or defrauds a business, they should be held accountable. In doing so, we create an environment where all legitimate business owners can thrive,” said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
More information on the “Operation Main Street” enforcement actions is available on the FTC’s website.
The BBB issued its “Scams and Your Small Business Research Report.” The report, which is available on the BBB’s website and in hard copy, is designed to educate and empower small businesses to speak up and report fraud, enabling the BBB to expand its knowledge of how scams uniquely impact these consumers.
The report is based on results from a new survey that was conducted in March 2018 by six local BBBs. It contains information from approximately 1,200 small businesses nationwide.
Key results include:
- 67 percent of the respondents surveyed believe there is a growing risk of scammers targeting small businesses, with only three percent believing that the risk has decreased over the past three years.
- The top five scams identified as putting small businesses at risk are: 1) bank/credit card company imposters; 2) directory listing and advertising services; 3) fake invoices/supplier bills; 4) fake checks; and 5) tech support scams.
- 38 percent of respondents believe that hearing generally about a particular type of scam is the best way to proactively protect their business, followed by 35 percent who think the best way is to have generally heard about the methods and behaviors of scammers.
- The primary motivations for small businesses to report scams included helping to warn others about the scams, trying to bring justice to the scammer and trying to recover money lost through the scam.
Finally, as an important component of Operation Main Street, the FTC and BBB today issued co-branded materials that are available on their respective websites to help small businesses identify and avoid potential scams.
“Scams and Your Small Business” is available in both English and Spanish, and includes information on scammers’ tactics, how small businesses can protect themselves from scams, common scams that target small businesses, how to report a scam and related resources.
The FTC and BBB would like to thank the AGs from the following states for their invaluable law enforcement contributions to Operation Main Street: 1) Arizona, 2) Delaware, 3) Florida, 4) Indiana, 5) Missouri, 6) New York, 7) Tennessee and 8) Texas. The FTC and BBB also appreciate the assistance of the U.S. District Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the New York Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
The FTC also appreciates the help of the following federal, state and local partners in publicizing the initiative and promoting the consumer education information: The U.S. Small Business Administration, the Attorneys General Offices of Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Utah, and the Fresno County Office of the District Attorney.