Small Business Shams


By Rosario Mendez, Attorney, Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Division of Consumer & Business Education

Resources from the FTC can help small businesses spot schemes to rip them off.

You probably know about scams that target people ― including your customers. But do you know about scams that directly target businesses? Not only do business scammers try to get money or information (or both) from your employees, they also use lies and deception to exploit people’s trust in fair and ethical businesses. As the nation’s consumer protection agency, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) protects all consumers, including small business owners, from scams. That’s why we want you to know about scams that may target your business: so you can spot them, help your employees know what to do about them, and protect your bottom line.

Scammers follow the money. They know that businesses pay for supplies, utilities, web-hosting services, and other things needed just to operate. They also know that, if those business lifelines are threatened, a concerned employee might act quickly. Especially if the caller seems to be from a government agency or a company you know and says that something terrible will happen if you don’t pay them right away. According to the FTC’s cases, the callers often seek payment by wire transfers, reloadable cards, or gift cards – which are nearly impossible to reverse or track. That, of course, is one of the clearest signs of a scam: no legitimate business, and no government agency, will ever insist that you pay by wire transfer, reloadable card, or gift card.

Here are some common scams that target small business and try to steal your hard-earned money.

Cyber scammers also target small businesses. For example, unsuspecting employees may get phishing emails that try to get them to give up sensitive information, such as passwords or bank account numbers. Or a scammer might launch a ransomware attack and take control of your business data.

You’ll find more about these and other scams ― and tips to avoid them ― in Scams and Your Small Business, a new publication the FTC is releasing in collaboration with BBB. Find it at

Meanwhile, how can you avoid scams and protect your business?


Rosario Méndez is an Attorney in the Division of Consumer and Business Education in the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, where she works on fraud prevention and cybersecurity education for small businesses. Her work supports the agency’s mission to protect consumers from deceptive and unfair practices through law enforcement and consumer education.