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Government imposters bring bad business to small businesses

June 21, 2016
by 
Lisa Lake
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

You’ve started a new business and want to ensure you’re doing everything right. So, when people claiming to be with the government call you to say you’re violating the law, you may be inclined to do whatever they say to fix it…right?

Slow down. Government imposters are counting on that reaction — because that’s their business.

Today, the FTC asked a judge to stop D&S Marketing Solutions from allegedly tricking and intimidating small businesses into paying up to $200 for government regulation posters that are actually free from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).  The FTC says D&S telemarketers called newly registered small businesses, claiming to be with OSHA or another government agency. Using official-sounding names like the “Occupational Compliance and Safety Administration,” D&S allegedly told businesses they were violating federal law because they hadn’t purchased posters about occupational safety, first aid, labor law, or other topics. In fact, says the FTC’s complaint, D&S threatened businesses with fines or a shut-down unless they bought posters immediately. Many unsuspecting businesses complied, paying as much as $200 for the otherwise free posters. The FTC says D&S raked in more than $1.3 million from this scheme.

A few tips for avoiding government imposter scams:

  • Get it in writing. Government agencies typically contact you first via postal mail, rarely by phone or email.
  • Don’t trust caller ID. Scammers can make a call seem like it’s coming from any area code and number on your caller ID.
  • If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.

Learn more about government imposters and file a complaint with the FTC if someone posing as the government tries to steal from your business.