Article by Jane Tweedy, Business Advisor, Western Sydney Business Centre
As a small business owner we already have so many things to take care of in our businesses, and there are many more things we don’t know we don’t know. Often I see the not knowing causing some unnecessary financial pressure, particularly when setting up the business. This blog post is about some of the scams and ‘taking advantage of’, that I still regularly see, that my poor clients have been subjected to before someone like me can tell them ‘no, don’t do that’.
ABN and Australian business name registration
Many new business owners are excited to start their journey, and the first thing they do is go to Google and Google ABN or Australian business name registration. What happens then, is that many click on the Ads at the top of the page, but what they don’t notice is that these are random businesses, not an official .gov.au site.
Although you do get your ABN or business name in most cases, you pay considerably more for the privilege for no additional service. For instance an $80 charge on ASIC for a three year business name registration versus $298 on one of these sites. Please when registering make sure to use a .gov.au site unless you are getting considerable value for the extra cost.
By the way, these questionable companies pay about $10 a click to appear above ASIC, so I quite enjoy clicking on them as I demonstrate to my clients what not to do.
Google My Business optimisation services
All new businesses should claim their Google My Business listing. You can even do it without a website (can use your Facebook page instead). However, there are some people that offer services by targeting new business name holders or even new domain holders and offer a service for $798 recurring every six months.
I recently had a client who utilised this service and also got a ‘free’ one page website as part of the deal. It is doing her probably more harm than good. They also mislead her and told her to say her business was in Rozelle even though she’s in Castle Hill. They’ve clearly done this to show how well she was doing for that search – a search that no one actually searches for!
It is free and easy to set up a Google My Business listing, so there is no need to pay this fee.
We’ve all received too many emails from spammy SEO companies. Surely if they were so good at what they did, they wouldn’t need to email us. Aside from that, they send emails only with disposable email addresses, which kind of suggests they are being very spammy. Sending out emails to the world, in some cases they really go too far, pretending to be celebrities.
For instance Kate Toon is a well-known SEO training provider, and her name and caricature were used in a round of these emails. So effectively they sent the email from Kate Toon to one of Kate’s clients who arranged for a phone meeting with Kate. The next day she had great joy confusing them because she was asking to speak to Kate Toon (because that was who sent her the email), but of course she can’t be in two places at once. Clearly this aspect is fraudulent. You cannot purport to be someone you’re not!
Again when you register your business name you may be sent a letter to obtain a domain name from a company in Melbourne. Many people have no idea how to get a domain name, so they think great, that’s how it’s done – $120 for two years domain name. On a reputable site like GoDaddy, you would pay more like $25 for the same thing.
Business name renewal
These letters come out about 6 weeks ahead of the renewal date because ASIC sends out emails about 3 or 4 weeks ahead of renewal. These people jump the gun to take advantage of people, although they do now note more clearly after complaints by ASIC, that they are not the official record keeper ASIC, and do actually provide a link to the correct ASIC site. However, they’re trying to get you to go through their site at an inflated fee.
Emails requesting verifications etc
These are a bit more tricky. Reason being, that some of these are actually legitimate. I recently have had these sent to me from ICANN or from my domain providers on behalf of ICANN, and these do need attention. However, it would be easy for a scammer to send a replica of this email and you would just click on it, so always be extremely careful before you click on any links from emails. They can lead into Trojan type software that takes over your machine, and may engage a cryptolocker to hold your files hostage.
As can be seen life can be pretty rough as a small business owner, and there are now extended laws against security data breaches. It is a good idea to make sure your anti-virus and firewall software is up-to-date, to avoid some of these issues. It really relies on your vigilance.
Government grants can be found on the business.gov.au/assistance website. I do suggest you look there first, because other options charging you money as a number will only deliver the same grant information. Some do help with grants, so they’re okay to deal with.
People who offer a service but are not a registered business and have little or no intention of doing the right thing. Remember to check for ABN, business name and GST status when dealing with new suppliers.
Being a small business owner is hard enough without facing unnecessary costs through these scams and people who take advantage of others. If you are ever in doubt about whether something is real, please feel free to ask and we will be able to assist you.
Western Sydney Business Centre, offers 4 hours business advice at NO COST with a NSW Government funded Business Connect Advisor. We can talk about any concerns with your business or even with your service providers. Please book here now!