DAYTON — Scam artists have used phony invoices for years targeting business owners and their employees. Scammers use them to fool businesses into paying for products the business didn’t order and, in some cases, the products don’t even exist. Even your Better Business Bureau serving Dayton and the Miami Valley receives these bogus faxes, e-mails and mailings on occasion.
In fact, the local BBB received a fax flyer from Blue Rocket SEO earlier this month stating BBB owed $95.87 for search engine optimization. But, upon further investigation, BBB learned the invoice was bogus. For instance…
– The address on the piece was not BBB’s current address, but one from ten years ago.
– The address on the company’s website was different than the one on the fax flyer.
– The company that sent the flyer was allegedly from Houston, Texas, but the company’s domain registration shows the Web site was created on November 28, 2017 with an IP location in Utah.
– The company is not registered with the Ohio or Texas Secretary of State.
– And, when a BBB team member tried to call the company, she received an automated message stating…
“Thank you for contacting Blue Rocket SEO to expedite help please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at bluerocketseo.com. Thank you and have a great day.”
There was not a way to leave a message or reach a live person.
– There were multiple reports from Ripoff Report about this company.
– A Google search found the address on the fax invoice (10878 Westheimer Rd., Box 102, Houston, TX 77072) to belong to The Mail Room, a mailing service company in Houston.
On Feb. 12, BBB serving Houston, Texas initiated an investigation on this company after receiving multiple inquiries via Scam Tracker, complaints and customer reviews. These reports state that businesses, like our local BBB, were sent or faxed invoices from Blue Rocket SEO indicating they all owed $95.87 for search engine optimization (SEO) services supposedly provided by the company. Similar to our local BBB, the businesses stated to BBB they never hired the company to perform these services.
The businesses also state they attempted to call the company and received an automated message, which referred them to an e-mail address. They were unable to leave messages or speak to a live representative. BBB serving Houston e-mailed the company to obtain more information about its services and ascertain its physical location. As of Feb. 23, the business has not yet responded to BBB’s inquiry.
Scams like this are far too common. Fake invoice scams come in different shapes and sizes. For instance, some are invoices for directory listings, domain renewals, magazine subscriptions and/or office supplies. Technology has made it easy for scammers to make their invoices look legitimate.
The US Postal Service reports that phony invoice scam artists succeed in collecting a significant percentage of all the bills they mail, but notes that due to the nature of the crime, it is impossible to determine the exact extent of losses. However, the fact that these types of con artists mail thousands of phony invoices, and solicitations disguised as invoices, on a regular basis, points to an annual loss to businesses that may run into billions of dollars.
John North, president and CEO of BBB serving Dayton and the Miami Valley said, “Many times, these scams are successful because the person in charge of processing invoices at the business isn’t aware of the scam, so the bill is handled normally and paid without further investigation. Some even use high-pressure or scare tactics.
For instance, the invoice could be from a local, state/provincial or federal government agency for some kind of fee, tax or other assessment required to stay in compliance with the law. They may be stamped “Past Due” or are accompanied by threatening phone calls.”
If you feel you’ve been a victim, be sure to contact the Ohio Attorney General’s office at www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/ or the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov. Also, report it to BBB Scam Tracker by visiting bbb.org/scamtracker.
Remember, be sure to research every company you do business with, including checking it out with BBB. To help with your search, BBB can provide a list of BBB Accredited Businesses in specific industries and Business Reviews on companies you’re considering. Visit www.bbb.org or calling 937-222-5825 or 800-776-5301.