BBB Tip: Fake Invoice Scams

Check invoices carefully! Scammers will send you bills for products you never ordered and bet you'll pay by mistake.

invoice in red envelopeThis scam targets business owners and their employees. The scammers attempt to fool employees into paying for products that the business didn’t order and that may not even exist. Fake invoices can be for any product or service; the most common are office supplies, website or domain hosting services, and directory listings (which may be referred to as a “renewal”).

How the Scam Works:

Many versions of the invoice scam have been reported, but the general con remains the same. The business receives a letter or email with an official-looking invoice. The person in charge of processing invoices at the business isn’t aware of the scam, so the bill is handled normally and paid without further investigation.

Perhaps the most intimidating is an invoice from a local, state/provincial or federal government agency for some kind of local fee, tax, or other official assessment required to stay in compliance with the law. These are sometimes stamped “Past Due” or are accompanied by threatening phone calls.

Tips to Spot This Scam: 

  • Train your staff. Make sure that the people processing invoices or answering phone calls are aware of this con. Scammers are great at mimicking official seals, fonts and other details. 
  • Create a process for inspecting invoices. Always check that goods or services were both ordered and delivered before paying an invoice. Designate a small group of employees with authority to approve purchases, receive shipments, and pay the bills. It’s also a good idea to consolidate your domain registrations with a single registrar, and make sure the domain is registered in your company’s name, not your vendor’s.

To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.

To learn how to protect yourself, go to “10 Steps to Avoid Scams”.

Last Reviewed: March 7, 2017