'Pretender' scam sends invoices for bogus services
Published Wednesday, November 14, 2012 6:00AM PST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 14, 2012 7:16PM PST
The Better Business Bureau is warning small businesses about an invoicing scam that sends out bogus bills for services never received.
Since July, the BBB has received more than a thousand inquiries about invoices from Enterprise Corporate Webhosting in Whistler, B.C.
The invoices often pretend to be an authorized service provider, and refer to webhosting, database and technical support services. This tactic is to give the company legitimacy as a previous supplier or vendor – but none of the businesses have ever dealt with the Whistler company before.
Danielle Primrose, BBB President, says small businesses need a trained and prepared staff for handling these “pretender” invoices.
“Businesses often have staff who are part-time or handle multiple roles, a vulnerability that bogus invoicing schemes try to exploit,” she said.
Enterprise Corporate Webhosting has been unable to prove it has provided any previous services to the businesses it has been invoicing.
The most recent response regarding a bogus invoice from ECW stated that “the company was invoiced in error,” said Primrose.
The BBB offers businesses the following tips for avoiding these kinds of 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.
- 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.