Local Businesses Targeted in Mail Scams

October 26, 2012

Denver, CO – October 26, 2012 – The Better Business Bureau of Denver/Boulder (BBB) is warning businesses to be on the lookout for deceptive mailings used to trick recipients into paying for something they didn’t order or don’t need. These mailings are disguised to look like invoices or letters from official agencies.

One such mailing received recently by local businesses is from UST Telecom, an F-rated company based in California. It is a solicitation for “preventative maintenance” but is cunningly designed as an invoice, causing the business to assume it is for services already rendered. UST Telecom has had nearly 800 BBB complaints in the last three years and has not responded to the BBB’s requests to modify its mailings. UST Telecom has also been prohibited from using such practices by the North Dakota Attorney General’s office.

“If it looks like an invoice but isn’t legitimate, it needs to have bold disclaimers saying that it is actually not a bill. And even then—it is still deceptive.” said Hope Marie Sneed, vice president of development and PR for the BBB of Denver/Boulder. “Accountants and bill-payers need to scrutinize everything they receive before paying it.”

Another misleading mailing received by a business in Aurora is titled, “Annual Minutes Requirement Statement Directors and Shareholder” and asks the business to file its corporate meeting minutes for a $125 fee. The recipient of the mailing told the BBB that it looks like a “standard government request.” In addition to the title of the mailing, it includes a due date for payment, further implying that it is something required by the business.

To prevent falling victim to invoice schemes, the BBB offers the following tips:

  • Make sure your accounting department or bill-payers carefully review all invoices before paying.
  • Establish effective internal controls for the payment of invoices. Channel all bills through one department.
  • Insist that employees fill out pre-numbered purchase orders for every order placed.
  • Check all invoices against purchase orders and against goods or services received. Make certain that order numbers correspond with the invoices.
  • Verify all invoices with the person who gave written or verbal authorization.
  • When in doubt, always check out the sender with your BBB.

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About the BBB

The BBB is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, BBB Business Reviews , BBB Charity Reports and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, your BBB also offers dispute resolution services for consumers and businesses. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, there are 115 local, independent BBBs across the U. S. and Canada. Please visit www.denver.bbb.org for more information.