How to avoid the hidden costs of scams

We’ve all been approached by scam artists at one time or another. Putting aside scams directed at businesses — including fake invoices, overpayment scams, and vanity awards — there are many, many ways scammers try to get money from unsuspecting consumers.

In fact, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently put together a list titled “12 Scams of Christmas” to address just a few that are prevalent this time of year. Among the many year-round scams we hear about are stranded travelers, calls from Microsoft, work-at-home schemes, money-washing solicitations, fake charities, investment fraud, fake checks, foreign lotteries, and so many more. In fact, consumers lose billions each year to scammers, and this statistic doesn’t even take into account the nearly half of all scams that go unreported because the victims are too embarrassed to admit they fell for the rip-off. It’s both sad and scary that the BBB is never short of subject matter when it comes to scams. Sadder still are the hidden costs of these scams to your business.

Think about the anatomy of a scam. It appeals to emotion, to a person’s desire for riches, and to his or her desire to do the right thing. Isn’t this the anatomy of a basic sales pitch? Aren’t we constantly trying to convince consumers to make the right decision by appealing to their emotions and their checkbooks? We tell them our product will save them money, our services will give them peace of mind, and our business can be trusted to help them make the right decision.

Scammers targeting your customers are actually degrading that trust. They call on the phone. You call on the phone. They say, “You’ve been specially chosen for this offer.” You say, “As a valued customer, you’ve been specially chosen for this offer.” They say, “We wouldn’t want you to miss this opportunity.” You say, “We would love to have you take advantage of this opportunity.” Can you imagine just how confusing this is to your customers? That confusion manifests itself in indecision. And we all know that no decision means no sale. And that hurts your bottom line.



So how do you clear up some of this confusion and help your customers trust you? Okay, heads up, there’s some shameless self-promotion coming here. If you’re an accredited business with the BBB, your job will be easier. Your best bet is to proudly display your affiliation with us. Tell your customers that the BBB has been promoting marketplace trust for over 100 years and that that’s a mission that you not only believe in but also support. If you’re not affiliated with the BBB, at the very least register your company on our website. It’s simple and free and will get you in our database so that skeptical customers can find you and do their homework.

If you want to take the extra step and go through the accreditation process, we’ll thoroughly check your company, including licensing requirements, history, and background checks. In addition, you must agree to uphold our standards of trust, which include advertising honestly, being transparent, and protecting the privacy of your customers. We hope you do these things already, but your BBB accreditation tells your customers that you do.

Let’s not let a few pesky scammers dampen our business. At the BBB, we’ll continue to encourage consumers to be smart and savvy. As a member of the business community, you’ll continue to be honest and fair. Together we’ll build a wonderful thing. Together we’ll build trust.

Kimberly Hazen is the regional director for the southwest region of the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau. In her role, she works to advance marketplace trust between buyers and sellers and to promote informed buying decisions.

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