As a business owner, you might be dealing with creating and sending invoices to multiple customers every day. Right?
But, are you aware of invoice frauds that are moving around you?
If not, you are mistaken as invoice fraud is a very serious problem that even most companies fall prey to this malicious attack.
Let’s get started with the basic concept of invoice fraud and how you can get rid of it.
Table of Content
What is Invoice Fraud?
Invoice fraud occurs when a third party submits fake invoices to a company with the aim to extract money. Invoice fraud occurs when a fraudster attempts to change a supplier’s payment details in order to deceive the company into sending money to the fraudster.
Fake invoices are created with knowledge of the payment relationship between the buyer and the supplier.
Companies are unaware of the scheme and they pay for legitimate goods or services that were never rendered.
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What are the Different Types of Invoice Fraud?
Let’s explore different invoice fraud types that will help you to prevent them.
Once an invoice is created and submitted for payment for rendering the services that were never delivered to the customer come under this invoice fraud.
Here, a vendor might be working alone or we can say that a hacker will be solely responsible for creating such invoices. It is sometimes referred to as invoice redirection.
In this type of invoice fraud, it is possible that a vendor may be collaborating with employees of the invoiced organization to ensure that the illegitimate invoice passes through the accounts payable process.
Duplicate invoices are one of the biggest costs that many companies’ account payable departments need to face. But, it’s not always just due to the result of vendor invoice fraud.
Many times, it might happen that a vendor re-submits an invoice if there is any delay in the payment. To get rid of or eliminate such invoices to be paid twice, there should not be any confusion within the AP department’s purchase order and automated invoice matching process.
And such confusion occurs only due to dishonest vendors who are responsible for submitting a duplicate and fraudulent invoice.
In this category, vendors may include false information on an invoice. Such invoice data can be related to:
- Numbers of staff employed
- Working hours on an order
And it’s just for the purpose of inflating an invoice and increasing the payment fraud they receive. We can also say that it is solely responsible for creating inflated invoices or false invoices.
Providing Lower-Rated Quality Products/Services
Another common cause of invoice fraud experienced by experienced accounts payable teams is when vendors attempt to provide inferior quality products to those ordered.
Such schemes such as these can often be very sophisticated and intended to deceive the buyer into believing that the inferior product is actually genuine.
Most businesses usually focus on the prevention risk of invoice fraud from vendors and external scams.
An internal invoice fraud happens when an employee who is handling the invoicing process receives a legitimate vendor invoice. Instead of making a payment directly to the vendor’s bank account, it diverts it to some different bank account.
On a temporary basis, the employee will change the vendor’s bank account details in their organization’s accounts payable system. It is just to avoid any type of detection before reverting the details. The legitimate invoice can then be paid to the vendor.
Both external invoice fraud and internal fraud are very real threats to all organizations.
Invoice scams involve the process when numerous payments are made in the same period to the same vendor.
An alternate way to deal with an invoice scam is when the fraudster repeatedly submits multiple bills with the same product, amount, invoice number, and even invoice date.
Apart from this, there are some other general items that fraudsters can point to as suspicious activity.
- Use a legitimate account number by changing one digit.
- Changing the contact information every time often gets overlooked during the bill validation process.
As such, the fraudsters are completely aware that simply changing the address or contact number on the document can help them get away without any suspicion.
Another important constraint that you need to check is the domain of the company email address or website. For example, if the company’s domain is showing as “a.com”, and on the next day it becomes “a.org”, then you must stay alert and must check further things.
A common theme among phony invoices is they sometimes show up in even amounts. Rarely are goods and services charged in nice round numbers. Given that, bills that total even amounts should be questioned.
How Does Invoice Fraud Happen?
Scammers easily find and exploit the vulnerabilities of the company’s accounts payable (AP) process. It is made possible by having poor controls and a lack of communication between the company’s departments.
Many big companies still use a manual and paper-laden AP process.
Invoice fraud is a standard method for scammers as they can easily identify and successfully exploit the weak points within a company’s AP process. Email, postal, fax, or even inter-office deliveries are the common channel through which they receive such information.
The subsequent crucial issue which you want to carry out is an ad hoc system that includes passing the file to numerous people in the course of the company. Whether it makes it to the proper individual(s) is questionable.
Even if the file does attain the appropriate parties, there may be an immediate financial loss of monitoring to make certain it receives authorization on time.
By the time the document returns to AP, it’s far regularly nearing the due date or worse yet, overdue. Scammers rely upon this to create a feeling of urgency that causes corporations to pay the invoice without verifying invoice information hastily.
Another common scenario that most companies have is that the department that ordered the goods has little to no involvement in the AP process.
Worse, is when the designated approver is a busy department head who has no insight into inventory and little time to verify. Thus, they rely on word-of-mouth or the assumption that the product was delivered.
Even those companies with a more sophisticated approvals process run the risk of getting hit with phony or fraudulent invoices.
While they may have some controls and procedures in place, there is always the chance that each approver takes for granted that the next person in line will read and validate the bill.
In each of these scenarios, there is no verification that the bill matches the Purchase Order (PO) or even if the items were delivered.
Tips to Prevent Invoice Fraud
Employing 3-Way Matching
The most essential thing that you need to do to get rid of fraudulent invoices is to match your invoices to a purchase order and receipt of goods and services offered.
The primary reason behind it is that most fraudsters do not take seriously fabricating these three essential documents.
Regularly Tracking Invoice Activity
If you’re tracking invoice activity on a regular basis, you’ll notice when something changes or seems odd.
Let’s say if you receive about 12-15 invoices per month from one specific vendor and suddenly that number increases at once. So, in that case, you must first verify the same with the vendors about the numbers.
Duplicate invoices or invoices that bear a resemblance to regular orders are considered to be the common type of invoice fraud.
On the other hand, scammers monitor email communications for months to years before launching an attack. It becomes your prime responsibility to keep a close eye on invoice activity or take advantage of a system that does it for you is an excellent way to protect yourself.
Checking Invoice Amounts
You need to be very careful to know how many scammers know about your target company’s approval process.
It might happen that your business may require an additional review process for invoices over $3,000, so they’ll send you an invoice just under that amount.
Anything coming in that’s close to your threshold should get another look.
Invoice automation makes it easy for you by tracking the total history of payments from each vendor and flagging any variations from the norm.
Automating Your Accounting
AP Automation plays an important role in preventing invoice fraud. Anywhere humans are involved in a process means there’s a chance for fraud to occur.
The human element is eliminated by automation. You can’t completely remove people from your accounting AP processes, but you can reduce the areas in which people must be involved and establish better internal controls, as many of the other tips mentioned.
Let us highlight some of the best examples of accounting automation:
- Sending out invoices
- Late notice follow-ups
- Accepting invoice payments and recording them in the books
- Receiving bills digitally and paying them automatically, assuming certain criteria are met.
- Matching payments to orders, creating a receipt and sending them out
Some automation uses built-in AI technologies to identify potential fraud. This is yet another level of detecting fraud that does not require the involvement of a human.
Fraudulent invoices are typically issued under fictitious business names or under a legitimate name but with a fictitious address or bank account number.
You should look up any new vendors to ensure they’re legitimate and locate their addresses on Google Maps. If the address is residential or a post-office box, they raise red flags. Also, if your existing vendors’ account information changes, contact them directly.
Still, do you have any questions related to invoice fraud? No worries. We have answered a few questions that are frequently asked by readers.
Is it illegal to send fake invoices?
Yes. It’s completely illegal. If the invoice contains information that is manipulated to show purchases that were not made or a price that is higher than that actually paid, it likely constitutes civil fraud and may constitute criminal fraud.
Can you fake an invoice?
No. A person who aids the fraud by creating a fraudulent invoice could be charged as an accessory, or perhaps even as a principal perpetrator, of the fraud, civil or criminal poses.
How do you know if an invoice is real?
To check whether an invoice you received is real or not, you must follow these essential tips:
- Check the logo so that it should not be so crisp.
- If you find the account number is somewhat different.
- If there is any change in the contact information.
- If there is the same amount repeating again and again.
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We hope you got a clear idea of invoice fraud and how you can effectively prevent them. The risk of invoice fraud is constantly increasing.
However, if you’re aware of the different sorts of fraud, your company will be in the greatest position to stop it. To add to it, the best way to get rid of invoice frauds is using online invoicing software like InvoiceOwl.
InvoiceOwl allows you to easily create and send invoices to your clients and even you can customize as per your needs. All your invoice data are completely secured and you do not have to worry about invoice fraud.