Many small business owners across the country are often diligent about many aspects of their companies, but one area where even the most observant can run into a little bit of trouble is when people are looking to rip them off. This is because scam artists are usually quite good at tricking would-be victims into turning over critical information or even money, and often entrepreneurs can't be as vigilant in dealing with them as they perhaps should be.

Such an issue recently arose in Southwestern Illinois, where a funeral home was called by a scam artist who tried to rip it off for a considerable amount of money, according to a report from St. Louis, Missouri, television station KSDK. In this particular scam, the person called to say that he represented the company's energy provider, and that it owed $1,000 in unpaid electric bills. Without payment, the fraudster threatened, the business's power would be turned off in the near future.

Many scam calls sound like they come from legitimate sources.Many scam calls sound like they come from legitimate sources.

What happened next?
Fortunately, though, the owner in this specific instance was able to quickly and easily check his records and determine that his business was fully up to date, the report said. But others have not been so lucky. Ameren, a local power provider, said it has recently been inundated with reports of similar calls, but that some of the companies targeted were tricked into paying up. As such, it is now working with local police to spread the word about the threat these scams create.

They say that the first thing owners should keep in mind in these cases is that the power company simply does not have people on payroll who call customers about unpaid bills, therefore any such call should be a red flag right away, the report said. Second, for those who think the calls sound legitimate – and by all accounts of this type of crime nationwide, they usually do – it's still a good idea to call the power company in question just to double-check. Further, those that receive such a call should also alert the power company and local authorities about the incident.

More threats still exist
Even if small businesses aren't receiving these phone calls, they may be targeted by scam artists in other ways. Data suggests that a large percentage of smaller companies may be targeted by hackers with something as simple as a phishing email that tries to trick someone into turning over a crucial password or bank account information, which can cause major problems in their own right.

Owners worried about these issues may want to think about the ways in which they can better educate themselves and their employees about the threats they face from all kinds of scam artists. Likewise, having the right strategies, both in terms of what to do in the event of their being ripped off, and building the right financial plan, could go a long way toward preparing them overall.