The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has issued a warning to accountants to be on the lookout for scams targeting their small business clients.
ACCC deputy chair Michael Schaper, who spoke last week at the IPA’s Tasmanian congress, said the commission receives thousands of complaints every year about scams targeting small businesses and said accountants must do what they can to protect their clients.
“It’s important to be able to warn accountants about these sorts of scams doing the rounds at the moment,” he said.
“The sorts of things we see that directly relate to the profession are things such as people being sent fake invoices.”
“The classic one is you get an invoice and think ‘I didn’t order that, or maybe I did’.”
Mr Schaper also warned of scammers pretending that they are from the tax office.
“The tax office is another common one where people get an email or someone even rings them and says, ‘I’m from the tax office’ and either, ‘you need to pay us this money’, or ‘we’ve got a refund for you but you’ve got to pay this fee to get your refund’.”
Accountants, Mr Schaper said, have two roles to play in protecting their clients from scammers.
“First of all, just be aware of the scams that are out there and when [accountants] come across something, to report it back to us so we know as well. The second one is [to] cast a bit of a critical eye over what your client is doing. If there are unexpected expenditures, non-recurrent expenditures, items that seem out of keeping with the nature of the business, it may be indicative of a scam.”
Protecting clients from scammers can have an enormous impact on the accountant-client relationship, Mr Schaper added.
“Ultimately, most accountants are looking for more than just a transactional relationship, a partnership with businesses, and to say, ‘Look, I’ve found this; I’ve got your back covered’ is a great thing,” Mr Schaper said.