Be on the lookout for “pretender” invoices, warns BBB during Small Business Month

  
     
October 16, 2012

VANCOUVER, British Columbia October 16, 2012Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning BC-based businesses about an invoice scheme that uses misleading advertising tactics. As part of Small Business Month, the BBB would like to advise businesses that they need a trained and prepared staff for handling these slick sellers.

“Small business owners are particularly vulnerable to scams,” says Danielle Primrose, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Mainland British Columbia. “Businesses often have staff who are part-time or handle multiple roles, a vulnerability that bogus invoicing schemes try to exploit.”

Enterprise Corporate Webhosting Inc., based in Whistler, British Columbia, has an F rating with the BBB due to its misleading sales practices. Since July 2012, the BBB has received over 1,035 inquiries about the company and many letters of experience from businesses who received invoices from the company.

In all cases the companies invoiced had no previous dealing with Enterprise Corporate Webhosting Inc., and felt that the invoice was not justified because no services were actually rendered. The invoice often references webhosting, database installation, or remote accessing services. A copy of the invoice can be found at the following link.

BBB refers to this type of tactic as a “Pretender Scheme;” the invoice may pretend to be the business’ "authorized" webhost or service provider. This tactic is to give the company legitimacy as a previous supplier or vendor.

BBB attempted to follow-up with Andre Chartrand from Enterprise Corporate Webhosting Inc. (ECW) and the owner did not provide proof that any of the complainants who had filed with the BBB had previous services provided by his company. The most recent response regarding a bogus invoice from ECW stated that “the company was invoiced in error.”

BBB offers businesses the following tips for avoiding “Pretender Schemes”:

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.

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. Send a letter to the company to notify that you will be keeping their product as a gift unless the company agrees to pick up their products at their own cost.

Don't deal with unknown sellers. First check the business' BBB Business Review at www.mbc.bbb.org.