Every year Florida business owners lose money to all kinds of scams. The best protection from such fraud and deception is to be informed on the different scams out there. The Florida Department of Agriculture's Consumer Services Division keeps a “Little Black Book of Scams” that contains a list of the most common scams in Florida.

The following is a list of scams that may most commonly affect you and your business:

Government Scams. This scam consist of scammers claiming to be officials from government agencies and legitimate businesses. The purpose is to get money and personal information in order to steal your identity.

What you need to know:

  • Be skeptical of anyone asking for money through a wire transfer or money order.
  • Never give your checking account number or Social Security number to anyone you do not know.
  • Do your homework. Find out who you are really dealing with.
  • Ignore unsolicited emails.

Tax Scams. As if tax season was not stressful enough, identity thieves take this time to steal identities and money. According to the US Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Florida has become the state with the highest rate of tax refund fraud.

What you need to know:

  • The only legitimate website for the IRS is www.irs.gov .
  • Make sure whoever is helping you has a Preparer Tax ID Number and that they provide this information on any returns they prepare for you.
  • The IRS will never contact you by email to get detailed personal financial information. If you are expected to receive an email from the IRS, contact them directly to find out if they are trying to reach you.

Service / Contractor Scams. If you frequently hire contractors pay close attention. This scam consist of contractors who take deposits before starting work or take money before finishing.

What you need to know:

  • If you need to hire a contractor get at least three itemized estimates and check their address, license, and complaint history by calling the Department of Business and Professional Regulation or by visiting their website www.myfloridalicense.com .
  • Never agree to a cash-only deal. Get a written estimate and carefully inspect the contract before signing or agreeing.

Internet Scams. In a day and age when we use the internet for almost everything it is important to keep an eye out for fraud. Online, scammers can easily imitate a legitimate organization by copying their logo or even the entire website. The purpose is to get your personal information or convince you to download malware.

What you need to know:

  • Never provide your personal or bank account information unless you are absolutely certain the website is authentic.
  • Do not reply to unsolicited emails. Unsubscribe to them. Never click on any links in emails from unknown email addresses.
  • Banks and financial institutions will never ask you to follow a link in an email or provide your bank account information through an email or website.

While we've only mentioned some of the common scams to hit Floridians there are many more. For more information on these scams and how to protect yourself take a look at the Division's website at FreshFromFlorida.com. Click on the “Divisions and Offices” tab then select “Consumer Services”.