Scam Artists and Con Men

scamalert“Evil is everywhere.  Evil people rely on the inherent goodness of mankind to ply their trade.”  -Tom Lunney 

I have been asked by a number of the business owners I work with about different scams with which they are being bombarded.  Money is getting tight, so the con artists and scammers are getting more creative.  Let me take you on a journey I hope you are not familiar with in any way, shape, or form.

All of us have web sites that also have pictures on them.  One of the ploys being used now is for a company to claim that you are using their pictures that they own without their permission and they are going to sue you for copyright infringement.  You should not be using pictures on your web site unless you know where they came from to avoid just this type of problem.  While this is not something that is illegal for a company to claim, they do need to provide you of proof of claim which is usually not done.  It is your responsibility as the business owner to make a reasonable request of proof of claim.  Also, go to your search engine and look up the company and the law firm making the claim against you.  Believe me you are not the first business that has had this type of claim made against them.

Another scam is the patent and claim of the copying of intellectual property.  This involves a company producing a product or service that is similar in design to another company’s product or service.  I have even seen the claim backed up by patents that have been approved by the US Patent Office for products that have been on the market for years!!!  The company making the claim will point out that since there is now a patent on the product that you are infringing on the intellectual property rights.  I would advise that you send the letter to your business attorney and not worry about it further.  The bad news is that this will cost you badly needed funds to fight a problem that you did not start.  Never answer any type of letter or phone call like this yourself.  Always involve your attorney in this type of problem so that you will have a record of the beginning of this fight and resolution that will stand up in court.

Another scam that is going around now is the threatening phone call from a bill collector, IRS agent, or some other government agency.  Here is the usual scenario:  you get an unsolicited call from someone claiming to represent some agency.  They tell you a few things in a general way about how you owe money for some tax or investigation or bill.  They demand immediate resolution of this claim and offer to do this over the phone using your credit information.  These people are good at threatening folks and are trying to frighten you into believing them and in settling this issue ASAP.  Here is the bottom line:  the IRS will not contact you over the phone.  They always send a letter.  Any government office will also not threaten you over a phone.  They are required by law to send you a letter about the offense or problem.  Never give out any information over the phone about you, your credit card, or even your birthday.  Report these types of calls to your local law enforcement agency, the Better Business Bureau, and your personal or business attorney.  Unfortunately you cannot stop this type of harassment.  Even if you are listed on the national Do Not Call List, these con artists will use technology to get around you being able to identify the caller.

In all cases do not give out any information about yourself.  If it is the government office scam (IRS, state tax office, or even the Bureau of Motor Vehicles) always ask them to send you a letter.  If they ask you for your address then you have confirmation they are just talking to a working phone number and they do not know you from Adam’s house cat.  Bill collectors that threaten you with jail, arrest, or court action are blowing smoke.  We do not have debtor’s prison in this country.

Pay your bills, respect other people’s work and intellectual property, and get permission before you publish someone else’s work.  This will not stop a con artist or scammer from trying to pull one over on you.  It will allow you to have a clean conscious and a good night’s sleep.

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