False Billing Scams
Has your business ever paid an invoice for something it didn't order?
You may have been hit with a false billing scam.
Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and constantly re-inventing ways to swindle Victorian businesses out of money.
How does the false billing scam work?
Scammers contact businesses by phone or email and send invoices asking for payment for listings or advertisements in magazines, journals or business directories, or for office supplies. The invoice or call may be for:
- an advertisement your business did not order
- a publication that doesn't exist or has limited distribution
- a non-existent domain name registration
- office supplies you didn't order
- a contract for services disguised as an invoice.
Often, by the time the business realises the scam, it's too late - the invoice has been approved or paid.
What are your rights?
Under the Australian Consumer Law, it is unlawful to demand payment for goods or services that were not first authorised in writing by a business.
Invoices or quotes for advertisements not yet authorised must contain the warning 'This is not a bill. You are not required to pay any money'.
Have you received a false bill?
If you suspect a bill is false, contact the company immediately and ask for evidence that the invoice is valid - does the company have authorisation from your business to provide the goods or services stated on the bill?
If you have unknowingly signed a false invoice and scammers are threatening you with legal action or debt collection notices, contact the Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal (VCAT). The tribunal will consider the matter and may make an order that the debt is not owed.
How to protect your business from false billing scams
Take time when settling accounts to check you're paying for what you have ordered. Organise your filing and accounting systems so you can easily detect bogus accounts or invoices.
- If you receive a bill for registering a domain name, check that the domain name on the voice matches your domain name exactly. If just one letter is different, it may be a scam.
- If you receive an invoice for advertising in a publication, check that the business that owns the publication did in fact send you the invoice.
- Scammers may quote a genuine entry or advertisement you previously placed in a different publication or directory. Always check that the invoice is for a publication you authorised.
- Have clear procedures for verifying, paying and managing accounts and invoices. Limit the number of staff who have authority to place orders or pay for them.
- Make sure you offer and use secure online payments methods. Beware of fake websites and do not click on links in emails from unfamiliar businesses or sources. Use reputable, up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall.
- Do not let debt collection notices or threats pressure you into making hasty decisions about payments and contracts. Seek independent advice if you are not sure what to do.
This content was provided by Consumer Affairs Victoria. For more information, visit the Small business scams page on the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.