CONSUMER ALERT: ARKANSANS CONCERNED BY INVOICES

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April 10, 2013

ITTLE ROCK - Arkansas consumers and small business owners alike wade through countless bills every month for the services they use or products they acquire. Sometimes, as the invoices mount up and due dates approach, payments are processed without much care or notice.

It appears that at least one out-of-state company recognizes that consumers may sometimes pay invoices without ensuring that the bills are valid. That company's actions have led to a number of complaints to the Attorney General's Office.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's Consumer Protection Division is looking into the matter. McDaniel issued this Consumer Alert today to raise awareness of the scam and to ask victims to contact his office.

Businesses, schools and municipalities have reported having received what the Attorney General believes to be fictitious invoices for what is referred to as a telephone maintenance contract. The mailers ask consumers to remit $425 to the address on the invoice for a warranty that "covers preventative maintenance on all telecom system equipment."

Unlike most invoices, these are not for services rendered, or even agreed to, by the entities that have received them.

"These are clear attempts to deceive Arkansas consumers into paying for something they did not ask for and do not need," McDaniel said. "We are even unsure about exactly what this company purports to offer, aside from a bill and an address by which consumers can send money. Anyone affected by this scam should contact our office."

McDaniel encouraged all consumers to examine every bill they receive to make sure it is legitimate. If necessary, take steps to contact the company that sent the invoice to double-check what they are billing for, and whether you have received the goods or services they offer.

Also, McDaniel advised consumers to:

•Remember, never pay bills for goods or services that were not ordered or authorized.

•Assign purchases to designated staff members, if a business or government entity; and, make sure all employees know the office's policy when it comes to purchasing supplies, receiving goods and invoicing.

•Never buy from a new company that solicits business over the phone or through the mail. Ask for references. Also, research the company by checking with the Better Business Bureau or the Attorney General's Office.

•Use written purchase orders to document all transactions.
Consumers who have received suspicious invoices should contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's Office at (800) 482-8982 or by email at gotyourback@arkansasag.gov.

For more information about consumer issues and scams, visit the Consumer Protection Division's website, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org.

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