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Beware of These 5 Scams Targeting Organizations

Just as individuals can be targeted by scam artists, so too can organizations. Con artists regularly target businesses, public agencies, nonprofits, and other groups to try to get money or sensitive information from them.

Scams targeting organizations take many different forms, but five common variations are:
  • Fake emails from the CEO or boss. In this scam, a con artist poses as the head of an organization and sends an email to an employee. The message instructs the employee to wire payment or to provide sensitive information, such as employees’ W-2 forms. The employee thinks the message is coming from the boss, but it’s actually a spoofed message coming from a con artist.
  • Phony invoices. An organization receives a fax, phone call, or letter demanding payment for products or services it never agreed to purchase. The con artist who sent the bogus bill hopes someone in the organization will pay the invoice before realizing it is phony.
  • Utility shut-off scams. Someone calls, claiming to represent an organization’s utility company, and says the power will be shut off within hours unless the organization pays a few hundred dollars immediately. In reality, the caller is a scammer, and any money sent will be lost.
  • Overpayment scams. In these scams, a con artist poses as a customer or client and “accidently” sends the organization payment for more than the expected amount. Then the “customer” asks the organization to return the overpayment by wiring the difference to a certain location. Ultimately, while the organization’s payment is good, the “customer’s” payment is not.
  • Ad scams. A con artist contacts an organization and asks for payment to renew an ad listing (such as a Google ad), to cover advertising services the organization never purchased, or to keep an organization’s listing from being pulled from Google or another location. The con artist hopes the organization will pay before realizing the scam.
To protect your organization, talk to staff members about the warning signs of a scam, including requests for wire transfers, prepaid cards, or gift cards. These are preferred payment methods for scam artists, because once payment is provided, it is very difficult to trace or recover the money.

Beware of unusual or unexpected invoices, emails, faxes, letters, or calls, especially those that demand payment or immediate action. Keep in mind that some messages that appear to come from someone familiar actually are sent by con artists in disguise. (For example, scam artists often hack email accounts or “spoof” caller IDs to trick people.) Encourage employees not to respond to suspicious calls or messages. Instead, ask them to address concerns with a supervisor or other staff member.

Additionally, make sure your organization’s software systems and security protocols are kept up-to-date to reduce the chance of an intruder accessing your system.

If you suspect a scam, report it to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.