We've warned you about a few notorious scams and now here's another one.
Sending fake invoices to businesses in the hope that they will be paid without proper scrutiny is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but it's still working for crooks and shonky operators.
False billing scams cost businesses over $700,000 in the last six months of 2013, and that's just the losses reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
One of the most common methods is to send invoices for goods or services that were never ordered. This is often associated associated with bogus advertising or directory scams. A variation is to invoice (and possibly supply) goods in larger quantities than were actually ordered.
Another is to send invoices for items that were ordered but never supplied. This may involve an employee acting on their own (by feeding fictitious orders into the system), or collusion between an outsider and an employee who approves the fraudulent invoices.
Last December, the ACCC had a win in the Federal Court against Artorios Ink (in liquidation) in a deceptive and misleading conduct case under the Australian Consumer Law.
Justice Mortimer, who heard the case, stated "The most serious aspect of the conduct was its premeditated character, the implementation of a system of deceiving unsuspecting employees and owners of small businesses into believing that they had ordered printer cartridges and were obliged to pay for them."
The sole director of the company and its sales manager were both ordered to pay a penalty of $50,000 and agreed not to manage or be the director of a corporation for five years.
The employee who is authorised to issue purchase orders should not be the same person who checks that goods were received or the services provided before invoices are paid.
Another tip is to process invoices methodically. Did you order these goods or services? Have you received them? Are the invoice details correct (supplier, price, quantity, etc)? Unless or until you know the answers are all 'yes', don't pay the invoice!
Consumer Affairs Victoria has some short videos outlining common scams targeting small businesses.