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State AG: Bill scam targets six school districts

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The state attorney general is warning of fake invoices being sent to several north country school districts, as well as to other state agencies and municipalities.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a statement Friday that a California company called UST has sent phony $425 bills to the Indian River, Alexandria, Carthage, Copenhagen, Hermon-DeKalb and Watertown school districts, despite the fact the schools have not done any business with the company.

“Agencies and schools need to be aware that these mailers are nothing but slick attempts to defraud entities of taxpayer dollars,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

He said the mailings appear to be a bill for telecom maintenance, with the invoices requesting payment for “Telecom Maintenance Agreements.” He said none of the recipients ever solicited the service or had any other dealings with UST.

In addition to the north country school districts, invoices were sent to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Transportation, Office of General Services and attorney general’s office.

Mr. Schneiderman has sent the company a “cease and desist” letter, informing the company that its mailings are deceptive and misleading, in violation of state General Business Law.

As precautionary measures against phony invoices, Mr. Schneiderman offered the following tips:

n Look out for solicitations disguised as bills. Fake bills are sometimes marked with the notice, “This is not a bill.”

n Review all bills and invoices carefully. Be especially wary of any from companies with which you are unfamiliar.

n Know the vendors you use regularly and keep a list.

n Make sure you have effective internal controls in place for the payment of invoices.

n Verify all invoices with the person who authorized the purchase.

n Check with the Better Business Bureau’s business review on any business that has contacted you before signing anything or giving out any payment information.

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