78ºF

Fake invoice scam

photo

It looks just like a legitimate letter from a government agency and it's tricking some into paying money they don't owe.

"This is a government look-a-like scheme. And basically the mailings look like they are from the government." according to Renee Focht, a U.S. Postal Inspector.

The return address is california labor compliance - and the business compliance department. Then in bold letters: Final Notice. The problem, there is no such department.

"These mailings looked official," Foct said. "They used names that included the United States, trademark, office you know."

One mailing claimed it would cancel a business trademark if not paid immediately. Immediacy is part of the game.

"Threats to make people hurry up and pay the funds," Focht told us.

Inspectors say an astute postal employee tipped them off to the case after seeing more than 100 pieces of mail arrive for a rented post office box.

Nora Flores, a USPS Employee, said, "I just became suspicious because it was just too much mail."

"Mailings were identical and she just felt like there was something wrong with it and there was some fraud," Focht explained.

The boxes were rented with false identification. And as the investigation grew, inspectors learned victims lost more than $100,000.

"All of this money was going into bank accounts with false identification. We could never identify the suspect in this case. Everything was done using false identification," Focht said.

The takeaway, don't pay a bill if it doesn't look familiar.

Focht warned, "Recipients have to be really careful and make sure that what it is they are receiving if they are going to pay something that is actually from a government office."

One red flag to look for, which was the case in this particular scam, the letter did not include a telephone number, fax number, e-mail address or the name of an actual person. So make sure you look for that.