Dear Consumer Ed:
I keep on getting past due letters for a product I never ordered. I've tried to explain the error to the company, but I never get responses; I only get past due notices with additional fees. What should I do?
Consumer Ed says:
Above all, don't be pressured into paying for goods or services you never ordered. Many of these so-called “invoices” appear at first glance to be legitimate bills, and may include threatening or confusing legal jargon to create a false sense of urgency to pressure recipients into making quick payments. Scammers are hoping that you’ll simply pay the bogus bills without checking them out.
Another variation on the phony invoice is a solicitation that is designed to look like a bill. It may contain a required legal disclaimer that says in large boldface type: “THIS IS NOT A BILL. THIS IS A SOLICITATION.” Unfortunately, this disclaimer is often absent or obscure. If you’re deceived into paying for the solicitation, you may never receive the goods and services advertised, and will probably have little to no luck in contacting the company, let alone getting them to refund your money. If you don’t see the above disclaimer, don’t assume it’s a legitimate invoice.
The following are steps you should take to avoid falling into this trap:
Verify. Search the name of the company sending you an invoice to see if others are reporting similar issues or other problems. Check a company out with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org), and also try doing an online search using the company name and words like “complaint” or “scam.”
Carefully read all invoices and solicitations that are sent to you. Check account numbers and the name of the company sending you an invoice. If you do receive a bill that appears to be legitimate, or from a legitimate company, look it over carefully for the name and location of the company sending the bill. If there is any difference (no matter how small) between the name of the business entity which sent the “invoice” and the name of a legitimate business, this is likely an indication that the invoice is phony.
Contact the company. If you ever question an invoice that you have received, call the number on the invoice. Legitimate businesses will have direct contact information, and will welcome questions. Ask for a purchase order or other supporting documents. An inability to contact the sender at the number provided is also an indication that the bill is a fake.
File a complaint. If you’re getting bogus bills, file a complaint with the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint, as well as with the Better Business Bureau. If the scheme involved and/or was sent to you via the U.S. mail, submit a Mail Fraud Complaint Form to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. You also should alert the Georgia Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division online at https://consumer.georgia.gov, or by calling 404-651-8600.