Salt Lake City, UT — If you own a small business, watch out for scammy marketing services. BBB Scam Tracker has received numerous reports of phony services tricking small business owners into signing monthly contracts. But these con artists fail to deliver what they’ve promised.
How the Scam Works
A cold call, email, or a social media post for a low-cost, small business marketing service sounds like the perfect way to boost visibility for a small business. The company claims they offer public relations, search engine optimization, or other general marketing support. These “services” make big promises about the number of new customers they will be able to send your way.
Once you sign up and submit payment, the company becomes hard to pin down. They might give you a delivery date for marketing materials, but constantly postpone it or simply stop replying. In most cases, you’ll be hard-pressed to get in contact with someone once you’ve been billed for the services. Several BBB Scam Tracker reports complain of being charged months after they cancel.
One victim lamented, “This company refuses to cancel my service so they can automatically re-bill me for a service I don’t want. I have a pending chat response on FB, their website and via their email and they are ignoring me.”
How to Spot Fake Services
Research companies thoroughly before hiring. Doing research before hiring them is critical. Get to know the company well before contacting them. Make sure they have a professional website and real social media accounts. Do an internet search for reviews about their services and keep an eye out for consumer complaints.
Double-check the contact information. One giveaway that you are dealing with a scammer is that despite having a social media presence and a professional-looking website, the company has no telephone number or physical address. If there is a phone number, call it to make sure it’s in service and if a physical address is provided, look it up to see if it is really associated with the company name.
Reach out to references. If the company provides references, contact them. Make certain it is possible to actually contact the people on the list and look them up online to make sure they are real people with legitimate small businesses like yours.
Make sure you understand exactly what you are paying for. A reputable company will be able to clearly describe their services and their timeline before signing up for anything. Get to know the services, their scope, and how and when they will be delivered. If any of these elements are unclear or if details about payments are vague, look somewhere else for services.
Use safe payment methods. Never send money to a person or company via wire transfers, cryptocurrency, or prepaid debit cards. If someone asks you for payment this way, it’s probably a scam. Even if you research a company and trust their services, always pay with your credit card. Should a problem arise later on, the charges can be disputed.
For More Information
See the BBB business tip on marketing strategies for small businesses and read tips for hiring a marketing agency. Visit the BBB Small Business Resources page for more business tips.
If you’ve spotted a small business scam, report it to BBB ScamTracker.