Bills & Invoices: Frauds and Scams that Appear to Be Legitimate Bills

Fake Bills - Pro Forma Invoicing

What is pro forma invoicing?

This is a bill your receive for goods or services that you never requested. The scam typically involves sales people from a publishing company contacting a business and falsely claiming that the business agreed to advertise in a particular publication. This is also called "false invoicing" or "false billing". The scam primarily targets small businesses. It is a breach of the law to engage in pro forma invoicing.  

A variation of pro-forma invoicing is ads disguised to look like a bill or invoice:  see our page on "Deceptive Ads and Mock bills: sales materials that look like invoices".

How to avoid pro forma invoices

  • Ask for proof that the advertisement was agreed to - no proof, no payment.
  • Verify the booking with colleagues.
  • Ask if the publisher has had a circulation audit done by the Circulations Audit Bureau (CAB) or the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC). While the absence of an audit does not necessarily mean the publication is not genuine, its presence is positive evidence otherwise.
  • Ask for specific evidence that the publishing company has been commissioned by an organization to publish the magazine on their behalf.
  • Keep records of telephone conversations discussing advertising, including date, what was discussed and who it was discussed with.
  • Have an advertising booking system in place and ensure all staff are aware of it.
  • Inform the company in writing that the advertisement they are charging you for was not authorized and will not be paid for.
  • Seek legal advice if threatened with legal action.
  • In the U.S. file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
    In New Zealand, inform the Commerce Commission.

List of companies and persons fined for pro forma invoicing

Companies and individuals that have been fined in around the world are:

  • Debson Holdings Ltd, trading as D&H Publishing and Debson Publishing
  • Hilltop Publishing Ltd
  • Mainland Media Ltd
  • Pana Publishing Ltd
  • Peach Holdings Ltd
  • PKL Publishing 
  • Summit Publishing Ltd, trading as SPL Publishing
  • Zennith Publishing Ltd
  • Mr Ashley Guy Rhodes
  • Mr Peter Dey
  • Mr Anthony John Hendon.
  • International Business or Fax Directory (published by IT and T, Switzerland)
  • International Trade and Business Directory (published by United Telecom. Trust Switzerland)
  • Internet Business Guide (published by UTP Digital Directories, Switzerland)

Reports from CFR website visitors

  • International Directories Corporation - Feb 2007, seen again in March 2008 - The invoice has the company president's forged signature at the bottom of the invoice. It is not his actual signature but is pretty close. Just above the signature it says: The following signature and statement were received earlier on a returned update sheet authorizing making this offer. The payment address listed is:
    International Directories Corporation
    130 Church St., #365
    New York, NY 10007
    Amount of the invoice is usually between $100 and $1,000. See this page for more information.



If you receive an invoice from these companies, we suggest you do not pay, and instead, contact your state attorney general's office.

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For a comprehensive list of national and international agencies to report scams, see this page.