How to treat a bill you think is a scam

Photo: Jane M Sawyer/

 Q. I’ve been getting bills from a company that’s a scam. Or, at least I think it’s a scam. Several news outlets have reported that it’s being investigated by the authorities, and I’ve never done business with the company. Still, they keep sending me bills. If I ignore these, should I worry about my credit report? What can I do to protect myself?

A. Fake billing scams are all too common.

Targeted victims are often unsure of what to do because while they don’t want to ignore a valid bill, they certainly don’t want to pay for products or services that were never received.

The situation you describe resembles a fairly common scam that often involves bogus billing invoices, statements or past due notices, said Steve Lee, the acting director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.

“Purported businesses that send fraudulent bills to consumers will often use a P.O. Box or private mail box as a return address and have their incoming mail to that box forwarded or delivered to another location, often overseas,” Lee said. “It can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to determine the identity or physical location of the sender or find the ultimate recipient of the money sent and recover any of the money.”

Lee said consumers should be extremely cautious about communicating with any company that they believe may be a scam. You shouldn’t provide the company with any personal or financial information such as credit or debit card numbers, and you should not make any payments unless you have verified that the company is legitimate and its bills are genuine, he said.

If you encounter a questionable billing situation, file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs by calling 800-242-5846 or using its online complaint form. If possible, share copies of the bills with Consumer Affairs as part of your complaint. he or she received.

You should also contact the Federal Trade Commission.

Lee said if, despite appearances, it turns out that the company may be legitimate and is genuinely seeking the payment of a disputed bill, the Division of Consumer Affairs will generally attempt to directly resolve the matter between the consumer and the business. If necessary, Consumer Affairs may recommend referring the matter to the Division’s Alternative Dispute Resolution unit for mediation or arbitration. It also may refer the matter to investigation by the Office of Consumer Protection.

Also take a look at Consumer Affairs’s Debt Collection Handbook. 

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This story was first posted in November 2014. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.