Phony Invoices

Invoice type solicitations appear to be legitimate bills from a yellow page carrier, employment advertiser, or other business. However, it is only a solicitation or an attempt to receive payment for nonexistent services or products.

Characteristics Of A Phony Invoice

If you receive a questionable invoice look for wording that indicates whether it is a bill or a solicitation. If it is a solicitation, there should be a clear and conspicuous disclaimer, required by the U.S. Postal Service, printed on the mailer that reads,

"This is a solicitation for the order of goods or services, or both, and not a bill, invoice, or statement of account due.  You are under no obligation to make any payments on account of this offer unless you accept this offer."

Unfortunately, this disclaimer is often absent or obscure. If you do not see the above disclaimer, do not assume it is a legitimate invoice.

At a glance, invoice-type solicitations appear to be legitimate invoices. A phony invoice may include a local return address. However, do not allow a local address to convince you that the mailing is from a local source. Usually a local address is nothing more than a mail drop from which mail is forwarded to a distant location. Phony invoices include language similar to what one would expect to see on a real invoice. They may also be worded to falsely imply that the targeted business has previously been a customer of the phony business. Phony yellow page invoices make prominent use of the familiar "walking fingers" logo and the "yellow pages" name. Neither are protected by any federal trademark registration of copyright.

It is wise to carefully review all invoices, whether they appear to be questionable or not. Determine whether the service or product was ordered and received. Do not pay for unordered merchandise.

What To Do If You Are A Victim

If you are a victim of a phony invoice, you may file a formal complaint with the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division.