Counterfeit scam targets businesses

Counterfeit scam targets businesses

By Greg Collier

No businesses were more hard hit by the pandemic than restaurants. Many restaurants struggled to stay open during the pandemic. However, due to the nature of how COVID-19 was spread along with government lockdowns, many restaurants closed their doors for good. Even without COVID-19, the restaurant business is a very precarious one. There’s an old joke that says the best way to make a million in the restaurant business is to start out with two million. Those that have survived the pandemic should be commended instead, some are being targeted by scammers posing as police.

Scammers who pose as police is nothing new. The most common variation of the police impersonation scam is when scammers will call a victim and tell them that the victim has a warrant out for their arrest. In most cases, the scammer will say that the victim missed jury duty. The scammer will threaten the victim with arrest if they don’t pay a fine over the phone either through gift cards or prepaid debit cards.

In Panama City, Florida at least one restaurant has fallen to a new twist on the police impersonation scam. The scammer called the restaurant claiming to be from the Panama City police. The restaurant was told that they had deposited counterfeit money into their bank account. Considering how much cash restaurants can end up dealing with, this could be a real possibility. To replace the supposed counterfeit money the restaurant was told to replace the counterfeit money with a prepaid debit card. In this instance, it was in the amount of $1000. Panama City police have said that this scam has been targeting other local small businesses as well.

There are a few keys to this scam besides the obvious one of paying with a prepaid debit card. The first is that most business that deal in cash should already have safeguards in place to detect counterfeit bills, such as the marker that can detect counterfeit bills. Also, if you were to accidentally deposit counterfeit cash into your business’ bank account you would be charged by your bank and not the local police. You may get a visit from the Secret Service instead.

If you run a small business, you may want to warn your employees of any calls from someone claiming to be the police demanding payment and let them know that those calls are probably scams.