Schools across Missouri and Illinois have been targeted in what appears to be a nationwide bogus invoice scam involving non-existent school supplies, Better Business Bureau said today.
The business behind the scheme, Scholastic School Supply, has used addresses in Las Vegas, Nev., and Sewell, N.J. All of the invoices are virtually identical and ask for a $647.50 payment for a shipment of 50 workbooks.
BBB in Las Vegas reports that it has received more than 50 complaints from 22 states in recent weeks.
Just last week, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued an alert on the phony invoices. “We want Ohioans to be aware of this potential scheme, so that no Ohio school districts end up paying for something they never ordered or received,” DeWine said.
An official with Centralia, Ill., School District 135 said that its administrative office and all five elementary schools had received the bogus invoices.
“If you were going to scam a school, now would be the perfect time,” the official said. “The school systems are so busy.”
Scholastic School Supply has no connection to Scholastic, Inc., based in New York.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said that both public and private schools across the region should be on the lookout for the fake invoices.
“People who do this to schools – many with limited budgets – are thieves, pure and simple,” Corey said. “These people are probably sending out thousands of these fake notices, hoping that many of the school districts will simply pay them without checking them first.”
The invoices ask for payment for 50 paperback workbooks at $12.95 each, or a total of $647.50. The invoices ask that checks be written to Scholastic School Supply. The Las Vegas invoices list a postal box in that city and include a return envelope.
BBB has attempted to contact officials with Scholastic School Supply without success. The Nevada secretary of state has no registration for the company in that state.
A company by that name was registered in New Jersey earlier this month.
BBB suggests reporting the solicitations to BBB, your local postal inspections office, the Federal Trade Commission at (877) 382-4357 or www.ftc.gov, Nevada State Bureau of Consumer Protection at (702) 486-3132 or www.ag.nv.gov, or your state attorney general.
Virtually identical invoices have been received at the DeSoto, Mo., Early Childhood Center and in schools in Waterloo, Carlyle and Mount Vernon, Ill.
Waterloo School District Supt. Brian Charron said he initially was notified about the scheme by a former coworker in another school district. He eventually discovered that all five buildings in his district had received the invoices.
“We buy thousands of workbooks every year, and something like this certainly could have slipped through,” Charron said. “It’s a great idea, if you’re a thief.”
BBB offers the following tips on avoiding business-to-business supply schemes:
– Deal only with reputable companies.
– If you receive a sales call, make sure you get in writing exactly what you are ordering and what it will cost. Insist on signing any agreement before items are shipped.
– Do not take a salesperson’s word that a company official or school employee has authorized you to do business with the sales company. Check with the official before finalizing an order.
Once the supplies are received, check them carefully to make sure you have received exactly what you have ordered. Make sure the invoice total is correct.
– If you receive items you have not ordered, contact the supplier immediately and ask them to pay for return shipping.
Contact BBB for a BBB Business Review by calling (314) 645-3300, or by checking our website at www.bbb.org.