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Solicitations Disguised as Invoices

Don't be victimized by con artists who try to get your company to order goods or services by mailing you solicitations designed to look like invoices. The unscrupulous individuals who mail these know that some unsuspecting managers and employees will be fooled by their appearance and will automatically remit payment, thinking the company had placed an order.

Title 39, United States Code, Section 3001, makes it illegal to mail a solicitation in the form of an invoice, bill, or statement of account due unless it conspicuously bears a notice on its face that it is, in fact, merely a solicitation. This disclaimer must be in very large (at least 30-point) type and must be in boldface capital letters in a color that contrasts prominently with the background against which it appears.

The disclaimer must not be modified, qualified, or explained, such as with the phrase "Legal notice required by law." It must be the one prescribed in the statute, or alternatively, the following notice prescribed by the U.S. Postal Service: THIS IS NOT A BILL. THIS IS A SOLICITATION. YOU ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO PAY THE AMOUNT STATED ABOVE UNLESS YOU ACCEPT THIS OFFER.

Some solicitations disguise their true nature. Others identify themselves as solicitations, but only in the "fine print." In either case, protect your company's assets by withholding payment until you have verified whether your company actually ordered and received the goods or services reflected on the document. If not, do not pay. You may have received a solicitation in the guise of an invoice.

A solicitation whose appearance does not conform to the requirements of Title 39, United States Code, Section 3001, constitutes prima facie evidence of violation of the federal False Representation Statute (Title 39, United States Code, Section 3005). Therefore, solicitations in the form of invoices, bills, or statements of account due which do not contain the large and conspicuous disclaimer required by the law will not be carried or delivered by mail if they come to the attention of the Postal Service, and will be disposed of as the Postal Service shall direct.

Con artists often make large mailings of illegal solicitations. Even if you are not fooled, you can help the Postal Inspection Service learn of such mailings by reporting the receipt of non-conforming solicitations to your local postmaster or the nearest Postal Inspector. The Postal Inspection Service may be able to prevent other business people from being victimized.