Precision Marketing Partners is occasionally contacted by concerned clients who have received a “bill” in the mail for domain or website hosting. This “bill” is usually sent via snail mail and is made to look like an official invoice. However, in the small print, it will usually say, “This is not an invoice.” The document will go on to list a “description of services,” such as domain listing, domain renewal, or website hosting, and finish with a section that looks extremely similar to a normal bill (as shown below).
However, this type of request is a false billing scam. If you look closely, you may notice that the dates for the “services” are in the future. In other words, the scammers are pitching services to you, not billing you for services already rendered. You owe them nothing and can safely toss the document in the trash.
Below are some tips for identifying and avoiding fake invoicing scams.
Read the fine print
Federal law prohibits any mailing which is in the form of, and reasonably could be interpreted or construed as a bill, invoice, or statement of account due, but is, in fact, a solicitation for the order by the addressee of goods or services unless it includes the following notice:
“This is a solicitation for the 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 law requires that this notice (or one very similar to it) be printed on the face of the mailing in “conspicuous and legible type in contrast by typography, layout, or color with other printing on its face.” Therefore, as long as you read a suspicious document in full, you should be able to locate the above notice and avoid being scammed. If you can’t find the notice, you may have stumbled across a good opportunity for a lawsuit.
Communicate with your team members
These scams take advantage of one thing above all: the fact that, more often than not, the owner of a business is not the same person who pays out invoices, handles inventory, or runs your website. If you’re not 100% sure what your company has purchased, who it has hired, or what domain services you are using, all you have to do is reach out and ask! Resist the urge to handle the situation yourself—just a quick text or email could save you from a very long and expensive ordeal.
Know where your marketing lives
Some scammers try to disguise their products as the ones you have actually paid for. They might try to charge you for a domain name that is very similar to yours or refer to a genuine listing your business has had in an online directory. Some scammers will identify ads that have run in certain publications and contact the ad’s sponsor, masquerading as that publication. Long story short? Keep a record of where all your marketing materials have appeared and who placed them there.
Watch out for “free” offers
Most people know “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” However, small business owners are busy—the ones worth trying to scam, anyway—and that’s why this trick is still so successful, even though it’s one of the oldest in the book. Instead of a bill, the target will receive an invitation to a free event or an offer for a free product or service. All you have to do, the scam will say, is fill out a form with some standard information. If you read the form closely, though, you may notice that it’s actually a sign-up sheet for unwanted services, with the amount you’ll owe hidden in tiny print. The bottom line? Make sure you scrutinize everything you sign, especially if it’s being offered for free.
Don’t fall for domain name expiration scams
Beware of unexpected emails or callers who claim that another company is trying to register your domain name unless you secure it in the next 24 hours (by paying them). If you paid for your domain name, no one could take it from you until it genuinely expires—and even then, most services will simply automatically renew your ownership, so there is no lapse. If you are informed that your domain name will expire soon, verify that information yourself before agreeing to anything.
Need more digital marketing help? Call Precision Marketing Partners.
We hope that this article has been useful to you. As a legitimate digital marketing company in Raleigh, we have a vested interest in helping small business owners grow their presence and protect their assets. If you have any questions or concerns about digital marketing services or website management, please don’t hesitate to give us a call!