Target 2: This is Not a Bill - WBAY

Target 2 Consumer Alert

Target 2: This is Not a Bill


A heads-up for small business owners and others: Be on the lookout for a simple letter in the mail that asks you to renew your license.

That letter has wound up stealing millions of dollars from business owners.

"My first instinct was to pay for it. Then I remembered something I'd been told a while back, so I looked into it further," Suzanne Mullen said.

Mullen, a business owner, received a letter asking for her business license renewal fee. Then she remembered the warning she'd heard.

"There were a lot of scams regarding the renewals for the LLC's -- to watch out for that, I wouldn't be getting anything in the mail."

The letter in fact was a scam that billed -- or bilked -- more than $10 million from thousands of victims.

Postal inspectors started tracking the case after thousands of complaints.

"These small business owners got a document in the mail that looked very much like a bill asking them to remit payment immediately for $175 and if they didn't pay there would be penalty," US Postal Inspector Wynter Kugel said.

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They saw another red flag right away:

"This mailing had no numbers, email addresses, and no web site. There was no way to contact other than mailing your money to the post office," Kugel said.

It's not just business owners getting mail like this. Solicitations can arrive in your mail that look like a bill for a service, with the scammers hoping you'll just assume to pay it.

It boils down to reading the fine print, which postal inspectors say you always should do.

"On the form, there was tiny writing that said 'This is not a bill.' I think, read the fine print and really go over it before you write a check," Mullen said.

Postal inspectors identified a suspect and stopped the deceptive mailings. The postal service is considering civil action, which often results in the return of money the suspect may still have. 

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