Scammers targeting Colorado’s small businesses

DENVER -- Colorado consistently ranks among the top 10 states for fraud and identity theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Small business owners are now becoming popular targets for scammers.

Emilio's Almost Famous Restaurant and Bar at 10081 Wadsworth Parkway in Westminster is known for it's freshly prepared green chili. The small family-owned business prides itself on using chiles brought in from Pueblo, but crafty thieves were busy cooking up a scheme to rob owner Lynn Isles and her husband, the restaurant's co-owner, of thousands of dollars.

Isles says a man who said he was out of the country on business booked a party for 60 people on the restaurant's website. Isles tells the FOX31 Problem Solvers that after a few conversations and text messages, the man asked her for a favor.

"He said, 'The party bus company can't run credit cards, so I'm hoping you will run the party bus fee through your company and then wire that money to [my] account and I'll pay you $150 for your time,'" Isles said.

The total came to $4,000. Isles' next decision may have saved her family business. She told the man, "I'm going to run it through the background check company that I use for my employees and if everything's legit, I'll get back to you."

Then, the man immediately hung up the phone. Isles said that's all she needed to realize she was being targeted by a scammer.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation and Denver Better Business Bureau tell the Problem Solvers these bait-and-switch scams are becoming more common.

The scams encourage the victim to accept credit cards for purchases that are actually approved, then they reverse the charges, leaving the business or individual without any way to recover the funds.

The CBI advises merchants and individuals to be aware of red flags. Never pay money to receive money and never provide personal identification or financial information to strangers or unfamiliar institutions. Always report suspicious activity to the CBI via phone (1-855-443-3489) or email.

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