CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - A Clarksville business was the target of a phone invoice scam and now the Better Business Bureau is warning small businesses to stay alert.
When Kayla Huggins, office manager of Straight Line Fence, picked up the phone at the small business about two months ago, she had no idea she would be talking to a scam artist for the next few hours.
"They were very confusing as far as who they were," said Huggins. "They said they had a verbal agreement with the owner to do some advertising. It took me a while to actually learn their name is Local Eco Pages."
The representative for Local Eco Pages said they were an online advertising company and that Straight Line Fence owed them more than $800. Huggins said no one who works with her could remember using the company, including the owner, who the company rep asked for by name.
"If you try to ask questions they would act like you were wasting their time," said Huggins. "They really made you think it's a legit business and you're messing up the process by asking any questions."
Local Eco Pages claimed they had audio recordings of a verbal agreement and tried to get Huggins to cancel the agreement over the phone. When Huggins confronted the Local Eco Pages rep. things turned ugly.
"I said I want you to send me the recordings," she said. "I want you to send me the proof. I want you to send me the analytics of where we used you for the advertising. That's when they kind of got nasty about it. And they said, I'm just trying to help you out. We'll send you to court. Have a nice day."
Huggins called the Better Business Bureau and made a report. Here's what the BB ratings for Local Eco Pages show. The company has an 'F' rating with 45 reviews. Several complaints have similar stories to the ones Huggins reported as well.
The Better Business Bureau suggests the following steps to protect your business from scammers:
Watch for common scam tactics. Train employees to refuse to make deals with unknown sellers, especially over the phone, without first verifying the reliability and complaint history of the seller's business with your local Better Business Bureau and other consumer protection agencies. Alert employees to be on the lookout for disguised solicitations, fake invoices and fraudulent phone calls.
Hang up. Don’t confirm information from unknown callers. This gives the scammers something to use against you.
Don’t trust caller ID. Scammers use spoofing technology that allows them display any number or organization name on your caller ID screen.
Get everything in writing. Require that all in-person, Internet, email or telephone sales pitches, advertising and charity appeals, or requests for your personal information be made in writing.
Institute strict accounting controls. The handling of invoices, etc. should be centralized and authorization closely checked.