Fake invoices via email, also known as invoice scams, have become a popular tactic for cybercriminals to trick individuals and businesses into paying for goods or services that were never received. These scams often involve the creation of fake invoices that look legitimate but are actually designed to extract money or personal information from unsuspecting victims. It’s important for individuals and businesses to be aware of these scams and to take steps to protect themselves from falling victim to them.

4 Steps to avoid fake invoice scam

  1. Take precautions in processing invoices and educate your accounts payable staff on the risks of invoice scams.
  2. Confirm unknown vendors before doing business. Vet new suppliers and unfamiliar vendors for authenticity and trustworthiness
  3. Match invoices to original orders: Cross-check every invoice to avoid discrepancies
  4. Take your time with payments and verify the information before paying. Do not rush!

Types of invoice scams

Phishing invoice scam

One common type of invoice scam is the “phishing” scam, where cybercriminals send fake invoices via email that appears to be from a legitimate company or vendor. These emails may contain links to fake websites or attachments that, when clicked, can download malware onto the victim’s computer or steal personal information. Cybercriminals may also use the personal information they gather to commit identity theft or other fraudulent activities.

Fake supplier invoice scam

Another type of invoice scam is the “fake supplier” scam, where cybercriminals set up fake companies and send invoices to individuals or businesses for goods or services that were never received. These fake invoices may contain realistic-looking logos, branding, and contact information, making them difficult to distinguish from legitimate invoices. In some cases, cybercriminals may even send follow-up emails or make phone calls to pressure victims into paying the fake invoice.

Telltale signs and red flags of invoice scams

There are several telltale signs that individuals and businesses should be aware of when it comes to fake invoices via email.

One red flag is if the invoice is from a company or vendor that the victim has never heard of or done business with. It’s important to verify the legitimacy of any invoice before making a payment, especially if it seems suspicious or if the victim has any doubts.

Our investigations into Common Scams of 2023

Another warning sign is if the invoice contains typos, poor grammar, or other errors, as this may be a sign that it is not legitimate.

It’s also a good idea to be wary of invoices that request payment via wire transfer or cryptocurrency, as these methods are often used by scammers to make it more difficult to trace the payment or to get the money back.

Protection against invoice scams

In order to protect themselves from fake invoices via email, individuals and businesses should take the following precautions:

  • Verify the legitimacy of any invoice before making a payment, especially if it seems suspicious or if the victim has any doubts.
  • Be cautious of invoices that request payment via wire transfer or cryptocurrency.
  • Check for typos, poor grammar, and other errors that may indicate a fake invoice.
  • Use caution when clicking on links or downloading attachments in emails, as these may contain malware or lead to fake websites.
  • Consider using antivirus software to protect against malware and other online threats.
  • If the victim is a business, consider implementing policies and procedures for verifying the legitimacy of invoices, such as requiring written confirmation of orders or using a centralized system for processing payments.

Fake invoices via email can be a lucrative tactic for cybercriminals, but by being aware of the telltale signs and taking precautions, individuals and businesses can protect themselves from falling victim to these scams. It’s important to verify the legitimacy of any invoice before making a payment and to be cautious when dealing with unfamiliar companies or vendors.

Invoice Scam Blacklist

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In a fake invoice scam, the scammer actively creates a fraudulent invoice and sends it to a victim, most commonly a business. The scammer’s objective is to deceive the victim into paying for goods or services that have never been received or provided.

To achieve this, the scammer frequently masquerades as a trustworthy vendor or supplier, making it challenging for the victim to differentiate the fake invoice from a genuine one. The end result of the scam is to steal money from the victim by having them pay the fake invoice, which the scammer then diverts to their own bank account.

  • File a report with the police and don’t forget to notify the email provider if the scammer sent the fake invoice through email.
  • Reach out to your bank immediately to inform them of the fraudulent payment and request their assistance in freezing the funds.
  • Assemble all relevant evidence, such as the fake invoice, the email, and any correspondence with the scammer.
  • If the fake invoice was made to resemble one from a legitimate vendor, reach out to the actual vendor to alert them of the scam.
  • To avoid future scams, take proactive steps such as verifying the identity of new vendors before making payments and reconciling all invoices with your original purchase orders.
  • Be cautious of invoices from vendors or suppliers you are not familiar with or were not expecting.
  • Carefully examine the invoice for errors such as misspelled names, incorrect addresses, or inaccurate payment information.
  • Scammers often use email addresses that are similar to but not exactly the same as a legitimate vendor’s address. Be sure to double-check the email address before responding to an invoice.
  • Be wary of invoices that request payment to be made via wire transfer or pre-paid debit card. These methods are often used by scammers.
  • If an invoice demands immediate payment without giving you time to verify the details, it may be a fake invoice.
  • Be cautious of invoices that request personal information such as bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, or other sensitive data.
  • Scammers may use high-pressure sales tactics to try and trick you into paying the fake invoice. If an invoice seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Attention: Consumers who have been contacted by scammers could have had their personal information breached. TotalScam!™ highly recommends that consumers whose information has been breached obtain an identity theft protection service immediately.

There are several companies that offer identity theft protection in the US. One of the most inexpensive options we were able to find is the protection offered by LifeLock. You can start your protection here.

Disclaimer: The information and opinions contained on this site are not endorsed by LifeLock. TotalScam!™ receives compensation from LifeLock. This helps support our scam prevention efforts.

Our investigations into Common Scams of 2023