Paid $84 for a Labor Law Poster? You May Get a Refund
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) secured more than $1 million in restitution for small businesses targeted in a nationwide imposter scheme.
In the scam, Thomas Henry Fred Jr. and his affiliated businesses sent thousands of letters to small businesses that looked like invoices from a government agency. The letters directed the businesses to pay $84 for mandatory labor-law posters or face fines of up to $17,000. The same labor law posters are available for free from government agencies.
Through this scheme, Fred and his affiliated businesses received more than $800,000 from more than 9,000 businesses.
“Florida entrepreneurs take risks and invest in their employees to the benefit of our state’s economy,” says Moody. “It infuriates me that anyone would take advantage of responsible business owners trying to ensure they are in compliance with the law. I am proud of the investigative work of our Consumer Protection Division and the FTC to stop this government imposter scam and secure refunds for Florida’s small businesses.”
“Just because an invoice looks official doesn’t mean it is,” says FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Andrew Smith. “If you get an official-looking bill that you don’t understand, call the government agency directly using the number you find online or in a local directory – not the one on the mailer.”
In addition to paying $1.2 million in restitution, the defendants are permanently banned from sending unsolicited direct mail to consumers, misrepresenting themselves as government agencies and misrepresenting that any goods or services they sell are being offered on behalf of a government agency.
These types of scams work because they appear official. As a result, scammers have become adept at making them look that way. To avoid future problems, Moody’s office recommends that you:
- Double-check suspicious mail by calling the organization using an independently-sourced number – not the number listed in the mail itself
- Verify invoices by keeping a list of all suppliers and vendors used
- Avoid buying supplies or materials over the phone unless you have a prior relationship with the vendor
- Ask for offer verifications in writing
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