Schools: Attorney General and Better Business Bureau warn of book scam

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

AG and BBB partner to help stop school supply scam 
The Washington State Office of Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau have joined together to help consumers avoid a school book scam making the rounds to schools in Washington and across the country.

School employees have reported receiving official-looking invoices from a fake company called Scholastic School Supply for some books, often math workbooks, they did not order and have not received.

The name is similar to the publisher Scholastic, which specializes in educational materials. Scammers often use names that are similar to well-known businesses to make their scams seem legitimate. 

All the phony invoices appear to be for the same amount – $647.50 – and contain realistic but fake identification information for the company and the books themselves. Trying to call the listed contact phone leads to a circuit of voicemails explaining it will be some time before anyone can return a phone call because of the busy time of year. Consumers say messages to the email address are not returned. 

Some versions of the scam list the company’s address in New Jersey or Las Vegas. Better Business Bureau in Nevada has been unable to find any corporate filings, business licensing or other documentation for the business in that state.

BBB in Nevada has received a total of 51 complaints from consumers in 22 states, including a school in Granite Falls, Wash. It has also seen more than 2,000 inquiries regarding this scam, with an increase of 15 complaints a day. 

Schools and other organizations should remember the following tips to help avoid scams: 
  • Encourage your treasurer to watch for invoice scams 
  • Make sure the invoice is coming from a valid source 
  • Check out the company that is sending the invoice. 
  • Centralize purchasing and billing so that the person or persons paying the invoices know what was ordered and who the vendors are. 
  • Do a basic Internet search to see if other organizations have reported similar problems. 

Better Business Bureau advises consumers to not pay suspicious invoices, but instead contact the Federal Trade Commission. To find out more about scams or to report one, check out BBB Scam Stopper and stay connected to BBB’s Social Hub.

Those who have already sent payment to the scammer may have already released sensitive information and should check with their financial division to see what steps can be taken against further abuse. They may also file a police report, file a complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service or report the scam to the Attorney General’s Office.


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