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BBB Business Tip: Unusual invoice? Take a closer look to avoid getting scammed

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (BBB) -- Con artists send out fake invoices in hopes of tricking businesses into paying for services or products they never requested or received. Large corporations and small businesses alike lose billions each year to this scam, making it a con that should not be taken lightly.

BBB Scam Tracker has received reports from business owners who got fake invoices for office supplies, domain hosting services, and web services – just to mention a few common versions. Watch out for phony invoices both in the mail and your email. Also, as the FTC reports, fake invoices can be a way of phishing for your business information in addition to tricking you out of money.

One office reported receiving a fake invoice from a fraudulent company for an “annual renewal.” A member of their staff told BBB Scam Tracker: “This came in the mail to our office titled "ACCOUNTS PAYABLE" with very little fine print to explain. They posed as being our website domain holder. We, of course, know who provides that service for us so we were not fooled.”

Follow this advice to spot this scam and avoid falling victim:

How to Avoid Fake Invoice Scams

  • Understand how your real invoices are delivered. Scammers may try to imitate companies you actually do business with, so make sure you know how all your legitimate billing processes work. Find out how and when invoices will be delivered, how payments will be made, and what happens when payments are overdue.
  • Don’t be easily intimidated. Scammers love using intimidation tactics to make you pay without a second thought. They may even impersonate government agencies to add weight to their threats. Even if an invoice claims your payment is overdue and legal action will be taken if you don’t pay immediately, take some time to verify the claims before you pay.
  • Create a procedure for inspecting incoming invoices. Choose a small group of employees to handle purchases, bill pay, and receive shipments. Then, create a process where employees check that products and services were ordered and delivered before they pay an invoice.
  • Train your staff. Give your staff training on your invoice inspection procedures and make them aware of fake invoice scams. Keep in mind that scammers are experts at imitating official agencies, so emphasize the need to double-check all incoming invoices.
  • Encourage open communication. Make sure your employees feel comfortable approaching you if they have any concerns about specific invoices your company receives.
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