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The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask

23rd June 2015

It’s summer (Irish style) and despite a raft of difficulties for businesses that we at ISME keep highlighting, many of you are busy, busy, busy – though not necessarily making much money.  But it’s when you’re busy that you can make that simple stupid mistake, a basic blunder that can cost you and your business thousands of Euro. And what is that mistake? It’s not making proper inquiries into each invoice to make sure they are genuine.

By our reckoning at ISME, various scams such as false international business directories (one of the oldest but still one of the best paying scams), false invoices (small but important changes to company names and addresses), and of course the Internet favourite, phishing, ranging from the improbably Nigerian chief who wants to be your best friend, to the far more insidious false claims that your bank is asking you to reconfirm your bank details ‘for security reasons’ are costing Irish business millions.

In the past we have seen a pattern to these scams, with a definite rise during summer when a business may have temporary staff in to allow for the regular staff to go on holidays. Temporary staff can be exploited by the scammers when they are hustled into believing that an invoice is overdue and has to be paid immediately or a reply must be sent confirming addresses.

The return of the swallows and scammers

Like the return of the swallows members are reporting the return of the scammers this season with the hoary old subscription for online business directories taking a starring role. Well-meaning members of staff can, on the stroke of a pen, contract a business into a very expensive contract to pay for a useless entry into an even more useless directory.

Another scam that is taking centre stage this summer is the bogus email correspondence from the Revenue Commissioners looking for bank details so that they can give you back a ‘tax rebate’. And who is going to refuse that one? Well you should for a start because all such correspondence is fake. Banks and the Revenue never ask for details via email.

You train your staff in fire safety. You should also train them in scam safety. Our advice is that all invoices, hard copy or e-mail, should be checked carefully – especially those coming from abroad or unknown suppliers.  If in doubt about the validity of an invoice, call the supplier company for further details. All reputable firms will be happy to share this information.

Check the document for small print and read it. Nominate one or two senior staff who must sign all documentation being sent to third parties in relation to directories and such like. Ensure that all signatories within the company are fully briefed and that all staff members understand procedures for signing off on information leaving the establishment.

Any business being harassed by bogus “legal” demands for payment for directory entries should contact the ISME Helpline on 01 6622755 for the appropriate response.