Business Columns & Blogs

Verify bills before you pay: Scam costs local business $500

Beware of paying invoices for products you did not receive at your business.
Beware of paying invoices for products you did not receive at your business. TNS

Scammers try to trick you whenever and wherever they can — on the phone, in your emails, online and even at your place of business. Whether you own your own business or work for company, big or small, here’s one scam you need to know about.

The fake invoice scam targets businesses by sending a seemingly official invoice for a common office product or service, in hopes of it slipping by and getting paid. But these invoices are far from legitimate. The most common cases of this scam include toner that was never ordered, website or domain hosting from a company you don’t deal with or directory listings you never signed up for.

This scam can slip through the cracks because of a variety of reasons: invoices vary by vendor; each one looks different. Your office may have a lot of moving parts with different departments dealing with a number of vendors. And when business is good, business is busy and details can be inadvertently overlooked. Unfortunately falling for these fake invoices can be costly, leaving your company out hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars.

In the last 12 months, BBB Scam Tracker has received over 800 “Fake Invoice” scams. One local business, located in Kuna, reported a loss of $587 due to erroneously paying an invoice they assumed was from an authorized third party dealing with their printer. Not only were they out the money, the fraudulent company continued sending them unwanted products and invoices. Attempts to contact the company to return the items were left unanswered and unreturned.

Here’s how to avoid this scam:

1. Be in the know: Now that you are aware of this scam, spread the word. Tell everyone in your office — your coworkers, your boss and especially those in the billing department. Know that this scam comes in a variety of forms and will often change strategies.

2. Create a process: Always check that goods or services were both ordered and delivered before paying an invoice. Designate a small group of employees with authority to approve purchases, receive shipments, and pay the bills.

3. Verify: Double check on anything that seems out of the ordinary, directly with your vendor’s real, contact information, not what is listed on the suspicious invoice.

If you receive products that you did not order, the Federal Trade Commission states that you are not required to pay for the merchandise and you do not need to send it back. You can, but are not obligated to, write the company stating you wish to return the products, at their expense.

Have you received a fake invoice at work? Report it to BBB’s Scam Tracker at bbb.org.

Emily Valla, emily.valla@thebbb.org, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to www.bbb.org or call (208) 342-4649.

  Comments