Scammers canvas flood victims

SMALL business owners beware - you are a target.

An Emerald business owner has come forward warning others not to fall victim to an increasing number of scams targeting Central Highlands businesses.

The small business owner said she was scammed for hundreds of dollars several weeks ago, when her business was contacted by a fraudulent publishing company demanding money for advertising she had supposedly agreed to place in its publication.

Accompanying the invoice was an edition of the supposed magazine with the allegedly agreed-on advertisement in print for her to see. She said her business had received an increasingly startling amount of publications and phone calls of the same nature within the past three weeks, with some being more elaborate than others, and most being fraudulent.

“The fake ones all have PO Box addresses and there is usually no contact number for you to phone,” she said.

“They ask for payment that you apparently agreed to make some time ago and then make contact over the phone reminding you to pay.”

She said some of the scams involved forms asking for credit card details and signatures for the owing advertising payment.

Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Peter Maguire lashed out at the idea of fraudsters targeting already suffering small businesses.

“If people are specifically targeting small businesses at a time like this they are scum,” Cr Maguire said. “A huge percentage of businesses were flooded or impacted and many are struggling with a range of other problems as it is.

“The sooner these types of people are brought to justice the better. I know it’s difficult to trace them but if they could be bought to justice, we would all be better off.”

The Central Highlands Development Corporation released a warning to small businesses in its online newsletter yesterday.

“It has been recently brought to our attention that an advertising scam is doing the rounds and targeting small business within the Central Highlands.

“Advertising packages are being offered to businesses and once paid, there is no sign of their service. Be vigilant and make smart business judgement,” the newsletter stated.

The latest edition of Response magazine, printed by Emergency Media, included a warning pamphlet for business owners advising them about the increase in fraudulent publishing companies.

The pamphlet argues that scammers simply take a person’s details from official magazines like its own, to make contact.

“Your business may be contacted by fraudulent publishers asking for money for advertising that you haven’t agreed to. Don’t worry - you’re not losing your mind, it’s a scam,” the pamphlet states.

“Do not give money to people collecting from you in person or couriers. This is not how official authorities are presented. Please do not give this book to any member of the public, especially those posing as university students. Real university students get their books from the university library.”

The pamphlet warns businesses to look out for suspect paperwork that appeared photocopied, of poor quality or not in colour.

It is not only fraudulent publishing companies operating scams in Central Queensland at the moment, with Centrelink warning customers to be aware of scam phonecalls and text messages aiming to defraud.

Centrelink general manager Hank Jongen said scam attempts have targeted Queensland and Tasmanian residents in recent weeks.

“The implication is that the person called will receive a special disaster payment, similar to that paid to those eligible for assistance as a result of floods and Cyclone Yasi in Queensland,” Mr Jongen said.

“It’s unfortunate and despicable that a small number of people are attempting to defraud people of their money after convincing them they are owed a Centrelink payment.”

There are also further reports of another scam involving fraudsters posing as Microsoft employees, where the victim’s computer history is hacked and read back to them over the phone in an attempt to appear legitimate.

The scammer then attempts to convince the victim their computer is infected with a virus, and to get rid of it, they need to download a certain program off the internet for a fee.

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