Sections

Weather Forecast

Close

Report: Small businesses increasingly wary of fraud

ST. PAUL—Small-business owners are growing more wary of scammers and the impact on their bottom line, according to a report released Tuesday.

The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission teamed up for a survey of small businesses that found scammers are a growing risk to their operations. Officials with the groups and other agencies gathered Tuesday to detail the report and urge the owners to educate themselves on the risks and how to take precautions.

The report, based on a survey of 1,200 small businesses nationwide, found that 67 percent said there is a greater risk of scams now than there was three years ago. Scammers commonly pretended to be someone the business knew or trusted.

The Federal Trade Commission's Midwest Regional Director Todd Kossow recalls the story of a Moorhead auto repair business scammed out of $870. It started with a phone call demanding payment for a past due invoice the Moorhead business had never heard of. The scammer harassed the business until it paid, Kossow said.

Consumers have a stake in the scams, too. If the company's bottom line takes a hit, buyers could see prices rise, said Kossow. In a cyber attack, credit card information could be at risk.

Minnesota ranks 40 out of all 50 states in the number of fraud and other reports, according to a 2017 report by the FTC.

Kossow advises consumers to be cautious about who they're buying from, especially when online shopping. Making purchases with a credit card can protect against fraud and allow consumers to reclaim their money.

While scams can cause a pressing sense of urgency, those affected should stop, phone an adviser and report the incident, said Jessica Looman, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

"Please don't make it easy for fraudsters in Minnesota," Looman said.

Complaints can be filed with the FTC website at https://www.ftc.gov. The BBB allows visitors to report and track scams throughout the state at https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/minnesota.