Beware the Bogus Bill

bogusAs a business owner you have probably seen your share of “invoices” for yellow page ads you never agreed to. Scams like this have proliferated for years, bilking millions out of small businesses too busy to double check every invoice and statement that arrives in the mail when they are too busy trying to do exams or sell eyewear.

These scammers have gotten bolder over the years by calling businesses about “verifying” phone book listings and editing the recording later to demonstrate that you or someone in your organization agreed to place an ad. The best advice in this regard is if someone you don’t know calls to ask you to “verify” an ad, hang up!

All cons must evolve however. As fewer businesses spend serious money in the yellow pages, these scammers are moving into online scams. We have recently seen a number of fake invoices asking us to renew domains, generally at a much higher rate than we have paid previously. In some cases, they are for domains we only registered a month or two ago. Since most domain registrations are public, it is not hard to get notice of who registered what domain, when. You can certainly pay extra for domain privacy, but it is our belief, the $20 or so it costs annually to keep that a secret is not money well spent.

It is a good business practice to keep a handy file of where you registered your domain name and where your website is hosted. Sometimes, they are both the same company, many times they are not. Just like your insurance, you should know when each expire and make note to review and renew them annually if not for a longer period of time as well. Just like your insurance both your needs and the services provided by your domain registrar and or hosting service will change over time. What may have been cutting edge 5 years ago could be a laggard today.

Under no circumstance should you pay a bill for domain registration, hosting, or for that matter anything online that you haven’t set up when you purchased the product just because you get an official looking email. I pity the person who clicks on the link in the email I received and types in their credit card information. Not only will they be billed (in this case) for 5 times the annual fee for the domain, but more than likely someone’s entire Christmas gift list as well.

Daniel Feldman, is CEO of dba designs & communications a marketing firm and a co-founder to the Visionaries Group, an optical consulting firm specializing in helping eye care practices achieve success.

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