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Scam Alert: False Billing & Unsolicited Invoices

Janice Yew | July 18th, 2017

It’s approaching the end of the financial year and business is booming. You’ve settled all your accounts well before 30 June. You’ve even paid the invoice from IP Direct for the renewal of your business’ trade mark registration well before the due date!

Fast forward to 5 months later, and you receive a letter from us (or your trade mark attorney) notifying you that your trade mark will be due for renewal soon, and that if you do not pay the renewal fees within 6 months, your registration will lapse. Wait, what?

Invoice scams such as this cause huge losses for businesses around the world each year. In fact, it is the third most reported scam in 2017 according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

How does it work?

The scam involves an offer disguised as an outstanding invoice designed to get you to sign up for unwanted goods or services. In some circumstances, these goods and services are actually delivered (at an inflated price). Otherwise, you are left out of pocket, and may have to pay for those goods and services again down the track.

Often, such scams target the owners of trade marks, business names and domain names. As soon as you apply for a trade mark or patent, or register a domain or business name, your details become publicly available. Fraudsters then trawl these public registers for your details, and send you a targeted notice purporting to be legitimate renewal notices.

How do I avoid being scammed?

Before you pay an invoice or bill:

  • check the goods and services in the invoice were actually ordered and delivered;
  • make sure the invoice is from the provider you normally deal with;
  • check the ACCC, ASIC and IP Australia’s websites to see if this invoice appears on the list of scams that have already been notified to authorities;
  • contact the company or registrar directly using contact details you find independently (e.g. if the invoice purports to be from your internet provider, look online or in the phone book for their support line and give them a call there to verify the invoice);
  • don’t be pressured or intimidated into paying until you are sure it is legitimate; and
  • when in doubt, seek independent legal advice.

Janice Yew

Janice joined mdp in 2013 as a law clerk while completing her Juris Doctor at the University of Melbourne. In 2015, she came onboard full-time as a law graduate, and started working in the firm’s property, commercial and intellectual property practices.