Business Scams on the Rise

October 13, 2009

Unauthorized Invoices and unordered merchandise are showing up at places of business across British Columbia due to some misleading telemarketing tactics. Better Business Bureau would like to advise businesses that they need a trained and prepared staff for handling these slick sellers.

“The most common schemes involve copier paper, toner and maintenance supplies, or classified advertising,” says Lynda Pasacreta, BBB President and CEO. “If you don’t have adequate purchasing controls then your company could easily become a victim.

Telemarketers commonly contacts companies knowing what office products are commonly purchased by businesses in hopes that a busy staff will pay or a new person will sign and agree to the charge without question.

In what is called the “Pretender Scam,” the caller may pretend to be the business’ regular or previous supplier, a replacement, or an "authorized" supplier. This tactic is to give the person legitimacy.

In one recent invoice scheme, a company called Express Transaction Services based in Montreal sent a BC business a supply order with an invoice for $250. The invoice had stated that the authorization was made by their receptionist. A call earlier that week asking for the receptionist’s name was treated as suspicious by the company, and was later confirmed when the invoice arrived. The company claims it had never placed an order with Express Transaction Services.

Another local company received a paper order without giving consent. The delivery of paper was not authorized, but again, some time before, the company received a call from a telemarketer asking for receptionist’s name.

BBB tips for avoiding business supply scams:

- Train your staff. Advise employees who are not authorized to order supplies and services to refer any such sales people to the purchasing department.

- Require sales pitches in writing. The purchasing department should be instructed to not respond verbally to unsolicited phone offers for office supplies.

- Institute strict purchasing and accounting controls. Every purchase should be documented by issuing a purchase order to the supplier with an authorized signature and a purchase order number. The handling of invoices should be centralized and authorization closely checked.

- Don't deal with unknown sellers. First check the business' BBB Reliability Report at

- Keep a list of regularly used vendors. This will help protect your business against schemers who claim your business previously used their services.

- Know your rights. If you receive supplies or bills for services you didn't order, don't pay. According to Canadian law, it is illegal for a seller to send bills or ask you to return unordered merchandise. For unordered merchandise, consider it a gift. Click here to find a letter which your company can use to send to notify a business that you will be either keeping their product as a gift unless the company agrees to pick up their products at their own cost.