Watch out for fake invoices over the holidays

Watch out for fake invoices over the holidays

The peak season for fake invoices is during the holidays, when regular staff take time off. But what can companies do to avoid falling victim to fraud? In this article we’ll run through the most common pitfalls when it comes to fake invoices and our best tips on avoiding them.

What features are characteristic of a fake invoice? 

A fake invoice is an umbrella term for a demand for payment for goods and services that you never ordered or were misled to order. Fraudsters are often very creative and they are constantly coming up with new methods to cheat companies. Some methods, however, are more common than others - here are a few examples:

You receive something that looks like an invoice, but on closer inspection is actually an offer.

  • You receive an invoice for something you didn’t order with a short payment deadline. The name of the company is often similar to a well-known company so that you mistakenly pay the invoice before discovering the error. 

  • You are asked to update your address and telephone details on a form that appears to be from a well-known company. 

  • You get a call from a salesperson claiming that you used to be a customer and they have an offer for you to keep your patronae or get you to return as a customer. The name of the company can often be easily confused with that of another well-known company.  

  • You talk to a telemarketer who asks if they can send you further details about their offer so that you can read through said details in peace and quiet. You are asked to confirm the details by saying “yes”, which in actual fact means that you have entered into an agreement for something completely different. 

  • You’re contacted by a company that claims that you have not paid for goods or services that they say you have ordered. You are then contacted by another company that offers to help you tackle the first company, for a payment. In fact they are the same company and are trying to trick you.

How can you avoid fake invoices?

It’s no coincidence that most fake invoices are sent during the holidays. Fraudsters take advantage of periods when regular staff usually take time off, in the hope that temporary staff will pay the invoice. This is why it’s important to make sure that your temporary staff are vigilant and keep track of the company’s suppliers and purchases. You could, for example, draw up a list of suppliers with information about each supplier’s bank details that must always be referred to when you pay your invoices.

Also make sure to read the invoice carefully and pay extra attention to the small print on offers and invoices. If you are ever unsure, it’s always a good idea to check the company name online to see what other people have said about the company. You can also contact the Swedish Tax Agency and ask if the company is registered for Swedish corporate tax or VAT. Rogue companies that send out fake invoices are not usually registered.

It is absolutely essential to be vigilant and take responsibility for understanding what conditions you are accepting because, as a company, you do not have any right to cancel a purchase made online or by phone. In law a verbal agreement is as binding as a written agreement, but it is more difficult to prove what was agreed upon.

With verbal offers, we recommend that you always ask for contact details and to phone them back. If the telemarketer is a fraudster, they will refuse, in which case you should end the call immediately. It is also a good idea not to answer “yes” to questions where parts of the conversation can be recorded and used against you.

How to contest a fake invoice

So what should you do if you receive a fake invoice? First and foremost, never pay for anything you haven’t ordered. If you receive a fake invoice, draw a line across the paper and write “not ordered” or “payment responsibility contested”. You should contest the invoice in a way that shows the date and time, which you can do by e-mail, fax or registered letter, for example. Return the fake invoice to the sender and save a copy of what you sent.

If you receive a reminder or a debt collection letter, contest it in the same way as above. Enclose a copy of the previously contested invoice and justify why you are contesting the invoice. If the Swedish Enforcement Authority receives an application for a payment order, you must contest the demand in writing within 10 days. State your reasons and why you think it is a fake invoice and sign. If the company still wants to recover the debt, the case will go to court. You should always file a police report if you have been sent a fake invoice as it is a form of attempted fraud.

Other sound advice

To help companies avoid falling victim to fraud, the Swedish Trade Federation has drawn up a warning list with the names and addresses of companies that they consider to be shady. The list consists of companies that send out fake invoices as well as those that use dishonest sales methods, with offers and mailings that can be perceived as misleading. However, just because a name is not on the list is no guarantee that the business is reputable, so always be vigilant!

You can also download Varningsinfo’s app, which automatically warns you if you receive a call from a known phantom company or a telemarketer who has previously received complaints.

It’s difficult to keep on top of everything – Azets can help you with most matters relating to business, finance, pay and HR. Contact us to find out more.