Scam Alert: False bills & dodgy business listings

In 2019 alone, Australia lost around $643 million dollars to scammers. False billing was the third most common type of scam, costing individuals and businesses $10.1 million dollars.

Practice Management

In 2019 alone, Australia lost around $643 million dollars to scammers. False billing was the third most common type of scam, costing individuals and businesses $10.1 million dollars.

False billing scams insist that invoices must be paid for services or supplies that were never ordered or provided. Dental practices should be on alert for these types of scams, especially those that concern purported business listings. Legitimate sounding companies have been cold calling small businesses and through misleading conduct require them to pay for worthless listings at a steep price. Here is what you need to know to protect your dental practice.

Misleading and deceptive conduct

Under section 18 of the Australian Consumer Law, an individual in trade or commerce cannot engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead and deceive. Conduct will be misleading or deceptive if it is capable of inducing error.

Business listing scammers make statements that imply your business has previously had a listing or has a current listing that needs to be renewed with the company. In implying that your dental practice has previously had dealings with the company, they imply that there is an existing legal relationship. This has been found in Federal Court proceedings commenced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to be misleading and deceptive conduct.

Warning signs

So, what do you need to look out for?

Engagement

Cold calls from a business listing company you have never heard of “checking” your current advertisement or renewing a previously held advertisement. Companies that require your dental practice to sign an agreement or pay an invoice as soon as possible otherwise your listing will be cancelled.

Business listing

The business listing looks like it has been copied and pasted from another listing or your own website. The business listing has a blurry logo and looks unprofessional.

Contractual terms

The description of the services provided by the business listing company is vague or uncertain. The terms and conditions provide for automatic renewals if no contact is made with the business listing company prior to expiry of the advertisement. What can I do to protect myself from false billing and business listing scams?

Refuse to take cold calls.

Always look at the directory website before agreeing to list on it to see whether it will help clients find you and provides a value commensurate with its cost. Always seek a written agreement and read the terms and conditions. If you are unsure about any part of the offer, seek more information or obtain independent advice. Ensure a limited number of people in your business are authorised to pay invoices and train those staff members to recognise potential false billing scams.

Get proof of the directory listing before any invoice is paid and never pay for a listing that was not authorised.  Keep written records of any authorisations for business listings.  Check the ACCC website to see if the business listing company has had any action taken against it.

If you have been the victim of a false billing scam report it to the ACCC and contact the Australian Dental Association who can help you seek legal advice if required. It can be difficult to retrieve payment for false billing especially as scammers become more sophisticated in their schemes, however it may be possible to stop harassment for the payment of invoices.  

Please contact us if you wish to know more about responding to false billing scams or any other consumer protection issues affecting your business.

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If you would like to know more about employment compliance or ways in which we can help your business with its employment assurance activities, please contact our Employment and Workplace Relations team on (08) 9321 0522.

© Panetta McGrath Lawyers 2021. This information is intended as a general overview and discussion of the subjects dealt with. The information provided is not intended to be, and should not be used as, a substitute for taking legal advice in any specific information. Panetta McGrath is not responsible for any actions taken on the basis of this information.

Panetta McGrath
By
Panetta McGrath

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