Whether you run your business yourself or you have an Accounts Payable department, you need to make sure someone is aware of the latest scam running across the country.

The Better Business Bureau is warning businesses of a company that is not following the rules of the United State Postal Service.  You think you are getting a bill, but it's not a bill it is a solicitation for your money.

The BBB of Acadiana says that these misleading invoices have been mailed to companies all over the United States, including businesses here in Louisiana.  They say the name of the company is US Telecom (UST) of Ontario, California company.

The "invoices" that come in from businesses are actually solicitations, but the BBB says they look like a standard invoice, trying to get the company to send in 425 dollars for services rendered.  The BBB reports that no where on the paper is disclosure of any kind that let's you know what it really is, which is against U.S. Postal Service regulations.

The BBB reports as follows: "The U.S. Postal Service requires solicitations that look like invoices, bills, or account statements to carry one of the following notices:

1. “THIS IS NOT A BILL. THIS IS A SOLICITATION. YOU ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO PAY THE AMOUNT STATED ABOVE UNLESS YOU ACCEPT THIS OFFER.”

2. “THIS IS A SOLICITATION FOR AN 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.”

The Better Business Bureau of Acadiana reports there have been 461 complaints filed against UST with the Los Angeles BBB in the past year.  182 complaints have gone unanswered complaints.
BBB also requested U.S. Telecom alter the composition and layout of the solicitation so that businesses wouldn’t confuse it with an invoice. U.S. Telecom did not respond to either of BBB’s requests.

The BBB reports that back in February the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office filed a Cease and Desist order against U.S. Telecom, and its principal, David Bell, for “engaging in unlawful acts or practices” by mailing businesses solicitations that could “reasonably be interpreted” as a bill or invoice.

So how do you protect yourself and your business?  Here are some BBB tips for avoiding invoice scams:

  • The best protection against phony invoices is knowledge and vigilance- never pay a bill unless you’re sure you have a service agreement or contract with that company.
  • Businesses should alert its accounts payable department to be on the lookout for disguised solicitations
  • Carefully review invoices from companies you do not normally do business with
  • Establish effective internal controls for the payment of invoices, and verify all invoices with the person who gave authorization

Anyone wanted information or to make a complaint can contact the BBB at www.acadiana.bbb.org or (337) 981-3497 24 hours a day for information on businesses throughout North America.

The BBB of Acadiana services the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Landry and Vermilion.