Scam artists commonly use fake invoices to get small businesses to pay for things they didn’t order. That ploy is also being used against schools.
Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin is warning schools and school districts across the country about possible fake invoices for educational supplies. In the past few weeks, there has been a rush of complaints filed with BBB against “Scholastic School Supply,” which claims either a Nevada or New Jersey address that turn out to be mail drops.
The first complaint against Scholastic School Supply was received on Aug. 20, 2014 by BBB serving Southern Nevada and since then has received nearly 70 complaints from schools across the country.
The company’s online BBB Business Review has also received more than 3,000 inquiries; there is an Alert posted there so that visitors are able to confirm the suspicious nature of the invoice. The company maintains a mail drop in Sewell, New Jersey, as well as Las Vegas, and BBB New Jersey has received more than 20 complaints so far.
The bogus invoices have been for $647.50 for the bulk purchase of “English-Language Arts Practice Books” or $388.50 for math workbooks (although the amounts and products could change at any time). Complainants say they cannot reach the company to inquire about the products or amounts allegedly owed, and all have denied ever doing business with the company previously.
BBB urges schools not to pay the invoices but to send them to the local Postal Inspector and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as their state’s attorney general or consumer protection agency.
So far, none of the complainants have sent money; however, BBB has no way of knowing if any schools have unknowingly paid the invoice, since they would not have filed a complaint.
To date, BBB has received complaints from schools in 27 states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. Due to BBB’s process for handling complaints, which gives a business up to a month to respond, the complaints received to date are still considered pending.
Contact information available on the invoices was initially just going unanswered, but now email is bouncing and the phone number has been disconnected. BBB has been unable to locate any corporation filings, business licensing, or documentation to substantiate a physical location in Nevada. Earlier this week, an agent in New Jersey filed as a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) under the same company name, and the BBB there is investigating the connection.
The UPS Store in Las Vegas is a BBB Accredited Business and is cooperating with the Postal Inspector and other agencies investigating the scheme.
Scholastic, Inc. has issued a statement regarding the fraudulent use of their name and trademarks.