New kind of invoice fraud subject of consumer campaign
Fraudsters in Belgium are stealing invoices from mailboxes, altering account numbers and sending them on to businesses
Average €12,000 lost
Invoice fraud is committed when mail intended for companies is stolen from mailboxes, post offices or sorting offices. Fraudsters take invoices and change the payment details so that the client, on receiving the mail, will pay the sum into a bank account controlled by the criminals.
Once the forgery is complete, the invoice can be put back into the mail to be delivered as normal. Figures show that the process is lucrative: Hundreds of companies and individuals have filed complaints with the economy ministry this year, for sums ranging from less than €1,000 to hundreds of thousands. The average amount is €12,000.
The ministries have joined with business and consumer protection organisations like Unizo and Bpost, which has plans to make its red mailboxes more secure against theft. The campaign has also issued advice on how to avoid being the victim of invoice fraud. The most important is to double check the account number with the original order or the company’s website.
Other red flags include a delay between the date of the invoice and the date it is received. Businesses should not hesitate to contact suppliers to verify details. Suppliers, meanwhile, should include their bank account details on order forms and avoid printing company information on envelopes.
Victims of invoice fraud can report it online. All victims are encouraged to file a report, which is automatically passed on to the police and to Bpost.