4 tips to protect your interior design business from fraud

interior designer fraud prevention

Is your design business at risk?Scams are not something that have developed in the recent “Internet” days. Scams and fraud have been around since the beginning of time, scamming a piece of bread back in roman times, to today, where honest citizens have been scammed for over $82 billion to date! The Internet has connected the world, making it easier than ever for scammers to take advantage of hard working people.

The most popular scam (and most profitable for the fraudsters) has been the Nigerian Prince scam. You know the one, saying they just received a huge inheritance and want to give you some, or you won the lottery (even though you never bought a ticket), or maybe the email sender is a family member, stuck in another country and lost their wallet and passport. It comes in several different formats and we’ve all gotten them. Unfortunately, as obvious as they may seem to some, this scam has cost victims a loss of $12.7 Billion in just 2013!

If your business is on the web, either for e-commerce, marketing or client communication, you could be at risk.
Emailing is the most popular medium for scammers to get in touch with their victims. Some generations can see right through the scam email but others may fall victim and be persuaded into the scam.

If you’ve been online and marketing yourself as a designer, you may have gotten an email like this:

This is an actual email sent to a designer.

This email, although simple and may seem harmless, may be the beginning of a potential scam. Always be wary when you receive an email like this. The goal of the scammer is to gain your attention and get you excited for new business, having you respond immediately and moving forward with their demands.

One possible way this one may roll out is by having you gain their trust so you feel as though you can coordinate everything for them before they move into their new home. The first action they would take is by providing you with a deposit for your services to build that trust even further. From there, the scammer would then ask that you pay the hired moving company on their behalf because they are having issues with currency exchange, credit card payment, etc. and need someone local to pay them. Once paid, usually by wire transfer or credit card, they disappear and you soon find out that they are the “moving company” and you are now out thousands of dollars.

Keep this scenario in mind as it is the basis of many scams, having roles swapped out for other professionals and third party companies.

Now, how can you protect yourself from a scam like this?

1- Don’t respond right away to an email.
When someone emails you out of the blue, do a little research on them first. The first thing I do when I get an email from someone I don’t know is Google that email address, make sure you put ” before and after the exact email so Google can find the identical match, like this- “marco@mydomastudio.com”. You’ll usually find some results but if not, there should be a name along with the email. Take that name and Google it, you’ll likely find some results in LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. If not, tread carefully.

2- Know who you are dealing with.
If somebody locally sends you an email or calls you and says they would like to hire you for a kitchen remodel, what do you usually do? Most would meet at the home to see the kitchen and meet the client . This shouldn’t be any different for someone out-of-town with the use of some handy technology. If someone you don’t know reaches out, ask them to Skype with you so you can put a face to the name. If they have issues having a Skype call with you, that’s your first red flag. Skype is free all over the world, if they can email you, they can Skype you. If you don’t have Skype, download it here.

3- Don’t only communicate via text/email.
Scammers don’t want to talk to you on the phone. They’ll usually try to email and text you as much as possible. This is another sign! if someone wants to pay you for a job, they’ll want to talk to you on the phone. If this is not the case, then something suspicious is happening and you should take precaution.

The above email can also work in text form or, a more common use, is the phone service for the hearing impaired- Teletypewriter (TTY).

This blends in with another scam type which is called the over payment scam. Someone overpays you “by mistake” with a check and ask you to wire transfer the difference over to them. Their intentions are to have you send them the money before the check actually clears- which it won’t!

4- When in doubt, ask for more info.
If someone has reached out to you and you feel like things are a little weird or unusual, always ask for more info. My best piece of advice for this is to judge the scenario by your past experiences. If you’re new to the business or feel as though you don’t have enough experience, talk to others that may have the experience. A great place to start is our private Facebook group. If you’re not a member yet, you can join here.

The Internet is not something new but it is the base of new innovation and technologies for doing business and connecting the world. This post is not to scare you and question every single potential client that contacts you.
Be mindful and, when in doubt, ask your peers for advice.

Happy designing!

Marco 🙂

PS. Here are a few useful sites on scams and how to identify and prevent them:

http://scam-detector.com/
https://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/internet_fraud
http://www.bbb.org/council/news-events/lists/bbb-scam-alerts/
http://money.howstuffworks.com/10-online-scams-that-target-small-businesses8.htm
http://www.moneycrashers.com/common-email-internet-scams/

One more thing, if you haven’t already signed up for Mydoma Studio, you can give it a try for free, click here to get started.