BBB Alert: Check the fine print on all business invoices

August 11, 2014

Better Business Bureau serving Upstate New York has been alerted about a misleading “invoice” being sent to subscribers to Buffalo Business First.

The letter looks like an invoice to renew or start a subscription from a company called United Publishers Network, based in Oregon. Business First sent an email to subscribers warning them that the company has no relationship with United Publishers Network, and that it is not authorized to offer subscriptions.

Here’s what the phony invoice looks like:

These documents, which are actually solicitations for the purchase of goods or services, are carefully designed to look like legitimate invoices for goods or services ordered and received. In some cases, the small print may identify the bogus bill as a solicitation. The deceptive solicitation may be received through the mail.  The business that pays a solicitation disguised as an invoice may receive the merchandise or service it was duped into ordering; more often, it will not, and efforts to trace the fraudulent firm that issued the "invoice" will prove futile.

BBB offers tips to spot a phony invoice:

Read all invoices and solicitations that are sent to your company carefully. Check account numbers and the name of the company sending you an invoice. If you do receive a bill that may appear to be from a legitimate company, look it over carefully for the name and location of the company sending the bill.

Channel all invoices through one department. Clear all invoices with the appropriate executives.

Know your billing. Familiarize yourself with the format of bills regularly sent to you by other companies. Do not be alarmed by language indicating you must pay the bill or that an unpaid bill will be forwarded to a collection agency. If your business did not order or place the ad with the company, you are not responsible for paying the bill. To prevent your business from paying for an ad or invoice that it does not owe, educate all of your staff -- especially those responsible for paying routine bills -- about the variety of scams involving phony invoices and solicitations.

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