False billing scams

False billing scams target you or your business with fake invoices for a variety of normal business supplies and activities including directory listings, advertising, domain name renewals or office supplies. They are hoping that you or your accounts staff will pay quickly without examining the fraudulent details.

A fake directory invitation is one type of this scam. The scammer invites your business to fill in all your contact details and offers free entry in a directory, but the fee is hidden in the fine print. There are also fake invoices for magazine or journal subscriptions related to your business. The scammer hopes that one of your accounts staff will pay the invoice without querying it.

Another effective scam involves imitating a business that you currently advertise with. A fake account is sent or you may be contacted by the scammer themselves. You are advised that your advertiser has changed their bank account details. The scammer then provides their own bank account details instead.

Australian website domain names are registered with accredited domain name registrars and resellers and must be renewed every couple of years. Scammers might try to impersonate these businesses or provide fake bank account details for payment. Always manage your business records carefully so that you can easily check which company manages your domain name. You can also check to see if the business is properly listed as a domain administrator go to .auDA website.

A payment redirection scam is yet another scam that is quite common and effective. This scam usually starts with your computers being hacked and your supplier information stolen. The scammer will then send an email or a letter that looks professional and includes your suppliers’ logos and details. The email or letter will inform you that their bank account details have changed and could you please update your records. Naturally enough, you are shocked when later your suppliers call to ask why their invoices have not been paid.

Office supplies is another attractive area of business that scammers will target. A business will receive a fraudulent invoice for stationery supplies you never received. Again, the scammer is hoping that payment will be automatically made without verification. A variation on this scam is a supplier calling out of the blue, offering cheaper office supplies. The supplies might arrive, but will often be overpriced and poor quality.

Report all scams to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s ScamWatch website.

If you have incurred a financial loss, report it to your local Police. Please also let us know about the scam here at NT Consumer Affairs on 08 8999 1999 or 1800 019 319 or at consumer@nt.gov.au so that we can warn others.

Always pay close attention to your accounts and be very cautious when paying bills.

Warning signs

  • You receive an invoice or phone call from a business directory or other publication you’ve never heard of, ‘confirming’ your entry or advertisement.
  • You receive a letter or an invoice requesting payment for a domain registration or renewal. Always double check that it is the company you initially registered with.
  • You receive an invoice for goods or services you did not order.

How to protect yourself

False billing scams are very common and occur in the Northern Territory regularly. Keep yourself and your business safe by following the following advice.

  • Never agree to any business proposal on the telephone; always ask for an offer in writing and then check the details provided.
  • Have a system for checking that goods or services were both ordered and delivered before paying an invoice.
  • Limit the number of staff authorised to make orders or pay invoices in your business. Provide policies and advice to new staff to ensure they are aware of all types of business-focused scams.
  • If a supplier’s usual bank account details have changed, call them to confirm using their website contact details.
  • Have a system for checking all the accounts you regularly pay and be highly suspicious of any new suppliers.

Last Updated:
18 Dec 2020

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