Have you ever received an unexpected email or a phone call asking for personal details? Did it sound or look suspicious? Did they know your name?
This might’ve been one of the many scams that business owners come across quite frequently.
It’s important to know a scam when you see one. One of the more common ones that go around is a business name renewal scam. As you might know, all business owners need to renew their business name either:
- Every year, or
- Every three years
This is something that the owner elects when initially setting up the business – we’ll talk about this in more detail shortly.
Some people will try to trick business owners into paying them higher amounts than what they actually need to, and these people will usually not be connected to ASIC in any way.
This article will discuss what types of scams you might come across and how you can avoid putting your money (and potentially your personal information) in the wrong hands.
What Kind Of Scam Are We Talking About?
With most businesses conducting some or all of their activities online, it’s common to come across various scams – emails, fake letters or phone calls. Usually, it’s easy to tell which ones aren’t legitimate. But some scammers can be quite convincing, particularly when they’re pretending to be ASIC. With business name renewal scams, the two main forms are:
- Fake emails
- Fake letters in the mail
You might receive an email that is supposedly from ASIC asking you to pay them certain fees to renew your business name. This can get quite risky as some of these scammers request personal information.
You might also receive a letter in the mail from a private service provider – we’ll talk about this shortly. The important thing is to know when an email or letter you’ve received is not from ASIC.
How Do I Know That It’s Not ASIC?
It can get tricky to determine whether or not the organisation or business is connected to ASIC in any way. They might have a very convincing logo, or the person sending the email could refer to themselves as someone from ASIC.
To identify whether the email is really from ASIC, ask yourself the following questions:
- Did they ask me to pay over the phone?
- Did they ask for my credit card/bank details over the phone or by email?
- Were the listed fees different from the ones charged by ASIC?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, chances are you’ve received a scam email. When this happens, make sure you don’t click on any links or unknown attachments. You’ll also want to check that the email comes from either of these two addresses:
If the email did not come from either of the above addresses, it is not ASIC and you should not provide any personal or financial details.
It’s also worth remembering that ASIC will send you an email to notify you of your business name expiry 30 days before the date. If you’ve received an email about your renewal but it’s not 30 days before your expiration, this might be a scam (you can check your business name expiry date on ASIC’s register).
If you’re still unsure, we’ve provided an example of what a typical scam email might look like:
|From: ASIC Special Renewal Service <firstname.lastname@example.org>Subject: Business name expiration – request to renewTo:|
We have been notified that your business name registration has expired. To renew, please click the link below and enter your credit card details.
If you have any questions, you can contact us at www.asic.gov.au/question
Regards,LisaAustralian Securities and Investments Commission
I Think I’ve Received A Scam Email – How Do I Notify ASIC?
If you do find yourself in a situation with a scam email, it’s best to notify ASIC. To do this, forward the entire email to ReportASICEmailFraud@asic.gov.au.
If you have employees who have access to emails like these, it’s worth informing them about scams and how they can identify legitimate emails.
Private Service Providers – Are They Reliable?
Sometimes an accountant, solicitor or another business will offer to handle the renewal process for you. They can provide services and are connected to ASIC – these are known as Private Service Providers.
If you choose to go through a provider, you need to be absolutely sure that they are legitimate and reliable. The reason for this is that they charge a fee in addition to the ASIC fees. This is similar to what scammers do (or pretend to do!), so it’s worth going through the questions we listed earlier to help you decide whether they’re reliable.
A better option would be to check what Private Service Providers can and can’t do. If they’re doing something they’re not supposed to, there is a chance they could be scamming you. Otherwise, they could just be non-compliant. Either way, you’d need to report it.
For example, providers cannot collect payment for fees without explaining what they’re for. They also cannot collect payment for a business name renewal earlier than 2 months before the expiry date. ASIC has provided a more extensive list of the rules here (they’ve also included instructions on making a formal complaint).
How Can I Avoid Being Scammed?
While scams aren’t exactly ideal, there are many ways you can avoid falling victim to these situations. When you receive an email dealing with a very important matter like a business name renewal, it’s worth checking the small details.
We’ve already gone through the process of determining whether or not the email is from ASIC, but what about scams in general? Usually, scammers won’t use your name in emails, and there might be various unknown attachments. The email itself might also look suspicious – for example, there could be a number of spelling or grammatical errors.
It’s also worth updating your antivirus software and other parts of your cyber security system. For example, you can reduce the risk of unauthorised access through two-factor authentication. We’ve written an article about how you can strengthen your cyber security here.
ASIC also has detailed information about scams that target their customers – you can read about this here.
How Do I Renew My Business Name?
As you might know, businesses need to register their name (if you’re a sole trader or in a partnership, you can choose to trade under your own name).
When you first Register Your Business, you have the option to renew after either:
- One year, or
- Three years
To renew your business name, you’ll need to head over to ASIC’s ‘Pay Now’ service. ASIC will send you an email 30 days before your renewal date with a link to the payment service and instructions on how to renew, so it should be a simple process from there.
How Much Does It Cost?
Each renewal option comes at a different cost:
- 1 year = $37
- 3 years = $87
Remember that if you choose to go through a provider (for example, your accountant), your fees are likely to be higher than the ASIC fees alone.
What Else Do I Need To Do?
Like we mentioned, the first thing you should do after confirming you’ve received a business name renewal scam email is report it to ASIC. However, there are some proactive steps you can take:
- Update your cyber security regularly (this could be as simple as changing passwords!)
- Make sure your employees (and anyone who has access to emails from ASIC) can identify scam emails
- Enforce a workplace policy around sharing sensitive information through email or over the phone
- Make sure you’re familiar with your business name expiration date (so you know when you should be receiving an email from ASIC)
- If you’re going through a Private Service Provider, check that they are reliable and compliant with the relevant rules
If you need any help with setting up your business or renewing anything with ASIC, we can help you out! Reach out to us at email@example.com or contact us on 1800 730 617 for an obligation-free chat.
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