November 28, 2022

6 Ways to Protect Your Business from Scammers

Outfitting your new business — especially if you’re a new owner-operator — means also outfitting your security measures and taking time to evaluate any gaps in your security knowledge.

While life would be a lot easier if we could trust every business, person, or contract that comes our way, bad players do exist. Knowing what to watch out for and avoid can help you make the right choices as you protect your business, your personal information, and your reputation with clients.

Here are six safety tips for spotting scams and protecting your new business.

1. Make Sure the Business is Legitimate

You don’t need to be an expert sleuth to find major errors or red flags. One way you can find out if the business you’re working with is legitimate is to do a simple Google search. This can show you if the business has a reputable digital footprint. You could also conduct a Better Business Bureau search to read reviews or find a business’ rating. If your search doesn’t pull up a lot of clarifying information, that could be a red flag.

Another place owner-operators can look to spot potential scammers is in the business’ contact information. Some red flags here include if you can only contact them one way, if you can’t call and leave a voicemail because a voice mailbox isn’t set up, or if a brick and mortar location doesn’t exist where it claims to be.

2. Use the Trucking Community to Find Honest Reviews

Reviews come from various sources but common ones include online, word of mouth, and overall industry reputations.

Word travels fast, so you can collect reviews pretty easily. Stellar businesses produce quality relationships while others with poor business practices leave a trail of shady stories behind them. Ask fellow owner-operators if they’ve worked with the business before and look to see how many positive and negative reviews they have online. Do you know colleagues who share some harrowing stories about employees not getting paid on time or not getting properly reimbursed for overtime work? Do they have only 5-star reviews without any additional comments?

Gathering information on a company’s stability and overall reputation will save you money in the long run by helping you avoid scammers and poor business partners who cause more stress than they’re worth.

3. Decipher Scare Tactics from Sales Tactics

When you register a new business and start to gather your information (such as getting your DOT number or motor carrier authority information), some of your details will start to show up in public registries. That’s both good and bad.

Legitimate businesses monitor these lists so they can market their services to new businesses. You’ll probably be inundated with mail as part of authentic marketing campaigns, but not all of the mail you receive will be from real businesses.

Illegitimate actors also monitor these lists and have access to your information. That means they can continually send you scams claiming you owe “fines” or need to read an important “notice” about something you’re doing wrong. You can also expect to receive cold calls promising free products. A common scam circling the country today includes calling about Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) and asking you to pay fees or fix an issue by throwing money at it.

These and other scare tactics are common ways scammers try to make you part with your money. Not all scams look like a scam at first, so pay attention to packaging, the logo they use, and the tone of the message. Does it sound like a ‘scripted’ phone call? Are they contacting you relentlessly? Remain skeptical until you have all of the information.

4. Check for Skimmers at Fuel Pumps

Another popular scam taking advantage of truckers today are skimmers at the gas pump. Credit card skimmers are devices on gas pumps that illegally take your credit card information. From there, the person who installed the device can use your card to purchase items, creating chaos for you and your finances.

Credit card skimmers are hard to spot since they’re purposely made to look like a normal part of the pump. Chip cards will be your best friend here since they’re not read in the same way as a credit card strip. Try to use a chip whenever possible or pay for your gas inside to minimize the risk of getting fooled by a credit card skimmer. Plus, it has the added benefit of getting to walk and stretch your legs a bit.

5.  Do Your Research Before Doling Out the Dough

If it’s your first time sending an online payment, there are a few things you should do to verify the credibility of who you’re sending money to.

First, make sure they gave you legitimate contact information by matching their contact information with what you find in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Licensing and Public Insurance database. Also make sure to create a legitimate paper or digital trail of the overall transaction. This means sending emails with time stamps clarifying product or contract questions instead of clarifying something solely over the phone without proof that the conversation took place.

You can also call your bank to ask if they have advice for how you can stay safe with payments as a new business owner.

6. Create a Criteria for Evaluating New Business Partners

As you build a network with new partners, remember to verify the legitimacy of the business and what these partners promise to offer. Create a mental checklist that includes some of your top priorities. Do they respond quickly? Are they on time? Do payments make sense? Do they know the industry and follow the basic guidelines and rules? Is the contract fair?

Also ask yourself if it was easy to establish a pattern of reliability with them. Are they present, communicative, and responsive? While giving the benefit of the doubt is a generous characteristic in social situations, remember we’re talking about safeguarding your business and your money; your priority is to protect what you’re trying to invest in and build. A big part of protecting your new business includes communicating expectations clearly. How they respond — tone, reciprocation, emotions, and information — can tell you a lot about how they do business.

Look for others that share your work values. If you value reliability, then set that high standard for others you contract with. Not only is it easier to establish a positive relationship when you communicate and share your values, but things will feel much more productive and successful from the onset.

Our Motor Carrier HQ team is rootin’ for your success on and off the road. Whether you’re listening to Chris Vernon’s Haulin’ Assets podcast or checking out the resources we’ve collected for truckers, owners, and fleet operators, we’re here to support you on the drive.

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