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Staff Writer at Debt Reduction Services

Minnesota Department of Commerce alerts consumers – be wary of fake telecom invoices

January 31, 2013

Minnesota Department of Commerce alerts consumers – be wary of fake telecom invoices

SAINT PAUL, MN – The Minnesota Department of Commerce recently received reports from small business owners in the state who had received suspicious invoices from companies claiming to have provided their telecommunication services. In light of this growing concern, the Minnesota Department of Commerce is urging businesses, churches, and non-profits to take extra precaution when handling invoices from unfamiliar telecom companies.

“Small businesses, non-profits, and churches often operate within a tight budget that does not allow for dollars to be wasted,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman.  “Exposing these types of scams is an important step towards strengthening our communities.”

What is a “fake invoice scam?”

Fake invoice scams are letters masquerading as invoices. They are sent out to a wide array of small businesses and other organizations requesting payment, often for hundreds of dollars. The letters are often impossible to distinguish from legitimate invoices and usually contain very few details about the services or products being paid for. While most recipients will not send payment to a company it doesn’t recognize, a certain percentage will do so out of fear.

Scam artists profit from organizations that authorize payments on impulse, without conducting a thorough investigation into the services or products referenced in the invoice. Understanding this, fraudulent invoice scams often request payment for generic products or services that could easily be lost in the shuffle of day-to-day business dealings. Additionally, scam operations often choose common company names that could easily be confused with one of the legitimate companies a small business deals with on a regular basis.

In this example, a fake telecommunications invoice may request payment for vague services such as “telecommunication maintenance” or a “premium voice mail agreement.” These invoices will be sent by scammers operating under generic names, such as “US Telecom Services” or “Global Telecom Providers”. With such ambiguity, office administrators may have a difficult time remembering whether they or another employee authorized such charges – especially when one considers the high volume of telecommunication solicitations small businesses and organizations encounter each day.

What to do if you are a victim of a fake invoice scam?

If you believe you have received a fake invoice, the Commerce Department recommends that you address the matter as soon as possible. It is never a good idea to assume that because it is fake you should simply ignore it. It is possible that you may be ignoring a legitimate payment request, and it is also possible for illegitimate debts to be sent to debt collection agencies. If you or your organization suspects that you have received a fake invoice, review previous expenditures and investigate the name of the company that sent you the payment request.

The Commerce Department urges consumers that have received suspicious telecommunications invoices to contact us by sending an email to [email protected] or calling 651-296-4026. The Department’s Telecommunication’s Division can tell you if the company is authorized to do business in the State of Minnesota and help you with your concerns.

The Department also recommends that consumers concerned they may have been a victim of a fake invoice scam contact the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, which may have the ability to take action against the scam operation on your behalf. The Attorney General’s Office can be reach at (651) 296-3353 or (800) 657-3787.

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