Governor's Office of Consumer Protection
ATLANTA -- The Governor's Office of Consumer Protection is warning businesses and consumers of a rise in fraudulent bills in Atlanta.
Solicitations are being circulated that look like bills, commonly for routine orders. The OCP says invoices may reflect purchases including copier paper, toner and maintenance supplies, equipment maintenance contracts, telecommunication services or classified advertising.
The invoices are likely to look legit, with an account number or reference number, payment due date and invoice date. Amounts owed are purposely small, as to reduce suspicion about the payment.
The fraudulent bills will also include a sense of urgency to be paid, to reduce time taken to research the source of the invoice.
According to the OCP, a solicitation is now being circulated to businesses, schools and local government offices for a telecommunication maintenance agreement. The invoice includes a phony invoice number, a payment amount of $425.00 and an invoice date.
The OCP advises that those affected be on the lookout for phrases of "Thank You for your Business" and "Please remit to the above address" on the invoices.
A second case of fraudulent invoices going around is a mailer to homeowners, offering them to obtain a copy of their deed for $87.00. The phony invoices include fake property ID numbers, property zone numbers and document numbers.
The mailers come from a company that uses the word "Department" in its title, to look government-issued and time-sensitive.
Another scam is in the form of a yellow page ad that looks like a renewal notice. The OCP advises that these logos were never trademarked and any company can use them on their materials. This makes the fake invoice hard to detect.
In all cases, the scammers rely on careless accounting practices among businesses and consumers. Scammers intend for the phony bills to get lumped in with real bills, and to get paid without question.
The OCP has advised the following protection precautions for businesses and consumers:
-Educate your staff about this scam and how to avoid it. If you find fraudulent invoices, keep a record of them and send a copy of them to all your employees. You might consider compiling a list of the companies most frequently used for things such as directory services, office supplies, and other recurring services.
-Implement procedures to inspect invoices before they are paid. Make sure account numbers match up with your records and research the company sending the invoice. You might consider assigning a designated buyer and instruct all employees to refer invoices to that person.
-Before writing a check for an invoice you receive, check out the company with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) to see if there have been any complaints against it
The OCP seeks to prevent any business or consumer from inadvertently paying for products and services that they have not ordered.