The invoices are actually solicitations for USTs services, but appear to be standard invoices, billing companies $425 for services rendered. Nowhere on the solicitation does UST disclose that the invoice is actually a solicitation.
It is against U.S. Postal Service regulations to mail a bill or invoice that is actually a solicitation, unless it bears a clear disclaimer that such unsolicited invoice is for information only and not a request to pay.
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.”
UST has accrued 461 consumer complaints with the Los Angeles BBB in the past year, including 182 unanswered complaints. US Telecom (UST) report: www.la.bbb.org/business-reviews/Telephone-Communications-Service/U-S-Telecom-in-Ontario-CA-100107904. In September, 2011 the Los Angeles BBB conducted an Advertising Review on USTs solicitations and requested that the company include a Disclosure Statement to let businesses know that the mailer is a solicitation.
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.
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.
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
The BBB of Acadiana works for a trustworthy marketplace by maintaining standards for truthful advertising, investigating and exposing fraud against consumers and businesses. Please 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.
Acadiana residents can now have BBB information in the palm of their hand with the official BBB Search app, a convenient, mobile BBB solution available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The app can be found at: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bbb-search-find-local-businesses/id440014505?mt=8.