Beware of phony invoices, warns BBB

5/17/2011

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Unauthorized invoices and unordered merchandise continue to show 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. If you don’t have adequate purchasing controls then your company could easily become a victim.

“Small business owners are particularly vulnerable to scams,” says Lynda Pasacreta, BBB President and CEO. “Often their staff are part-time or handle multiple roles, a vulnerability that scam artists are all too happy to try to exploit.”

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.

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 www.mbc.bbb.org.

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.

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